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Russias Foreign Trade Cant Grow by Decree

Published: June 4, 2014 (Issue # 1814)


Speaking at the 2014 St. Petersburg Economic Forum, President Vladimir Putin said, Our goal is to ensure that annual growth of non-oil and gas exports exceeds 6 percent. To get there, we will introduce new tools for supporting Russias non-energy companies on global markets.

Now consider this from a different speech: The first of these foreign economic relations issues is the need to increase efficiency and improve the structure and balance of foreign trade. We must achieve a significant increase in manufacturing industry exports. For this we need to expand the production of goods that are in demand in foreign markets and enhance their competitiveness. Those are the words of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev speaking before the 25th Convention of the Communist Party in 1976.

The parallels between the two leaders thoughts and attitudes are clear. In place of a serious plan, both offer more of an incantation summoning up the spirits of increased exports.

At the same time, Brezhnev was more cautious: whereas he accompanied most phrases such as seriously increase, expand and raise with specific percentages, he gave no concrete figures for the needed increase in foreign trade.

However, Putin decisively sets that figure at no less than 6 percent. Of course, if the authorities measure the anticipated growth in rubles, inflation alone will account for at least a 6 percent increase. In fact, Brezhnev can be forgiven for his speech because, unlike Putin, the Soviet leader did not have a multifaceted economy at his command.

It is a banal and hackneyed idea, but one that remains true: the state cannot change the structure of foreign trade by decree or by providing government support to specific sectors. Only competitiveness can effect such a change not decrees. And even if government support does provide a boost, the same old question remains as to who will receive it and according to which criteria.

Unfortunately, the real thrust of Russias course was clearly evident from the content of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum where euphoria over oil and gas and closer cooperation with China reigned. Of course, the extraction of gas, copper and other raw materials is a very high-tech process, but in the end Russia does not export anything high-tech to China it is only selling gas, copper and other raw materials.

And those exports alone will definitely fall short of the 6 percent increase that Putin demands.

Kirill Kharatyan is the deputy chief editor of Vedomosti. This comment first appeared in Vedomosti.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburgs showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the teams website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literatures most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poets birthday. The tragic tenors work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russias greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Centers Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test ones intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only mans best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during todays reenactment titled Winter War: How it Was. More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie Black Cat, White Cat, as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of Takoy Festival, a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonights festival finale is Fathers and Sons, a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenevs classic about familial relations.



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