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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Man on His Plan




As work on the Center for Strategic Research's economic blueprint reached a last-moment fever-pitch, Alexander Bekker of Vedemosti spoke last Wednesday to German Gref.


Q:


From what the papers have published, your work seems to be a qualitative re-think of Ludwig Erhardt's post-World War II reforms in Germany, with elements of the Chilean and South Korean models built in.


A:


No one else's model can be applied here. Of course there are some general principles of reform. And there are common problems and relatively standard solutions to them. But this does not mean we have taken the Chilean or Malaysian model as a foundation. And particularly not the postwar German model. I don't think it correct to compare our program with those implemented earlier. There isn't a single country that has emerged from such a condition. Never has there been such a closed, militarized economy organized like one big venture. Ten years of reform is too short for empirical studies. The initial experience with liberalization and privatization showed that market instruments don't yield results automatically. This shows the necessity for considering the peculiarities of a developing Russian economy and the mentality of our managers and workers. We sometimes want to skip certain stages, but ... society doesn't accept it. We can't use the experience of developed countries with taxes or customs regulation. Our program is based on the real situation in Russia.


Q:


There have been reports in the press that your strategy is all show. How much of your document is just technicality, and how much of it is really applicable? Or is it just going to be shelved for prosperity?


A:


The program has three formats, and they really are technically different. The short version gives direction within the various spheres. It's like the Chilean reformers' 15-page memorandums. The large version, the program concept, explains what to do and how in each sphere. And finally, the most technical format has never been drafted: the means for implementing the program. It's more than just words. Everything there is written out in detail, the deadlines, which laws have to be enacted, what kinds of regulations.


Q:


For 10 years?


A:


For the next four years. We have a 10-year planning period. We have to look into the future to determine what kind of Russia we want to see, what kinds of trends there will be. But the actual forecast period is four years. This is how we're planning all our work. And for that matter, it's quite detailed. For example, it includes a presidential decree for the president to name his own authorized representatives in major federal regions. We worked to have the second part of the Tax Code before the Duma and have the deputies pass it, as outlined in our program, by Aug. 1. In a word, the strategy remains a strategy, but it is simultaneously absolutely grounded in reality.


Q:


What do you know about Yury Maslyukov's program? If the press is to be believed, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov is preparing to use it as tactical operating plan for the next year to year and a half?


A:


I haven't seen Maslyukov's original program. But you can't make a comprehensive conclusion from the excerpts published in the media. Nevertheless, you can see parts of our program in it. It needs to be determined how compatible the two programs are. We have never discussed this with Kasyanov. If there's a problem and we use Maslyukov's program, I think we can conduct an analysis and decide how valuable such a system would be, and how much of a role Maslyukov's program would play in the next year and a half.


Q:


What was the point of encouraging competition among the programs when yours was already underway?


A:


I don't think there's any competition. That a program is being developed at the Duma is good. But there is no point in thinking that there are any realistic alternatives to the Center for Strategic Research's strategy. I know well the amount of resources needed to prepare a quality program. The resources aren't available for creating a true alternative to our program.


Q:


A well-written economic program is not the same thing as a reliable bureaucrat. Who of those with you at the Center for Strategic Research are likely to go into the government?


A:


I think the specialists who worked on the program are the nation's brightest. We're all grateful for the fate that brought us together. Most of those specialists could help implement the program. They aren't limited to theoretical experience, they've proven themselves in business. And some of them - Oleg Vyugin, Mikhail Dmitriyev, Alexei Ulyukayev - had very high posts in the last Cabinet.