Is a strategy for long-term stagnation being prepared for Russia?

Is a strategy for long-term stagnation being prepared for Russia?
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The worse the situation in the country, the more monumental the documents concerning its development proposed by Russian authorities.

The Russian authorities have started to create a new strategic document — “Strategy 2035” — for the state’s strategic development for the period from 2018 until 2035. The new concept is to include a number of important sections: growth poles, strategic planning on a federal level, special and territorial planning and international cooperation.


Having not fulfilled one thing, we start another

According to Oleg Fomichev, Official Secretary and Deputy Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, the development of the new strategy has been caused by the requirements of the 172-FL “On strategic planning in the Russian Federation”. The work will be completed in 2017. By the end of 2016, the document on the strategic forecast for a long-term period will have appeared.

Oleg Fomichev admits that all previous similar strategic plans went unfulfilled. It concerns Gref’s program, and the concept of long-term social-economic development of the RF until 2020. Both the documents were created with the active participation of the Ministry of Economic Development. So, as the Deputy Minister put it, it is necessary to take the previous negative experience into account, and overcome the barriers preventing the implementation of the mentioned programs.

According to Pavel Kadochnikov, President of the “Center of Strategic Development” Foundation, the success of the initiative will depend on the efficiency of the cooperation between the center and the regions. Many key items may be solved only on condition of the regions’ active participation, especially in the utilities, infrastructure and construction spheres.

According to Oleg Fomichev, the “Strategy 2035”, as it is, will be short. It is impossible to describe in details what will happen in the country in a dozen and a half years. Its task is to determine the trends and the joint development lines.

The next stage of strategic planning, for 2017 – 2018, will be the development of industrial strategies with detailed execution plans.

Besides this, one more program for middle-term development, for 2018 – 2024, will appear. It will also be comprehensive. It will be focused on the plan’s implementation for the next two or three years, but in the longer term the plan will look vague.

Oleg Fomichev stressed that the characteristic feature of the program is that unlike soviet plans it will not contain any directions for enterprises regarding what and how much to produce. The document will contain the headlights of the state policy to be implemented via regulation and other market tools.


Break a deadlock

The director of the resource center for strategic planning at the Leontievsky center, Boris Zhikharevich, stresses that the implementation of the 172-FL will come across great difficulties caused by the necessity of balancing the interests of all regions and municipalities of the countries as to the priorities, targets, tasks and financial resources. It means that 85 regional and 2,300 municipal strategies should be developed, and all of them should be aligned with each other!

The complexity of this task leads to a dead end. To break it, it is necessary to arrange intensive dialogue between all participants of the process. For example, it is impossible to “decompose” the GDP growth for each municipality separately — the task is absolutely unreal, but it may be solved via the creation of an integrated economic and mathematical model. That is why the alignment of all plans is more of an intention than a reality.

8 criteria are proposed for the alignment of different strategies which will allow for their integration. The approach was tested in several regional centers and towns. The result appeared positive on the whole: coherence was rather high.

The important tool for such plans is the rating of the regions' competitiveness, defined for the last several years. Territories compete with each other and with world poles of economic growth as to the seven key factors: best institutes, human power, infrastructure, investments and innovations, natural resources and finance.

Due to such an approach, 130 initial performances have been reduced to several ranks. It allows one to determine the leaders of the Russian regions which contribute crucially to the development of the country. In the given case, two concepts of polarized and equal development are being contested. The debate is of fundamental importance while preparing “Strategy 2035”.

According to Boris Zhikharevich, development is mainly concentrated in large cities and agglomerations. And this is the crucial standpoint to be taken into account in strategic planning.


And what of the construction complex?

Russia is characterized by great diversity of regional conditions: economic, political, geographical and climatic components. This makes 3D territorial planning especially important.

Elena Chuguevskaya, Director of the Strategic and Territorial Planning Department of the Ministry of Economic Development of the RF, remarks that two concepts are being discussed in this section.

The first one includes guidelines on the preparation of the RF regional strategies, covering requirements on spatial development of territories.

The other document summarizes the experience of strategy implementation control in federal districts. It is necessary for understanding the gaps, drawbacks and advantages accumulated by the strategic planning practice in Russia.

The main concept of the spatial development is to be adopted by the Russian Government in December, 2016. The working draft has already been prepared, but, according to Elena Chuguevskaya, it may be amended.


This new variant of 3D territorial development is of great importance for Russia’s prospects. To remind you, a previous similar document was adopted in 1996: a scheme of population displacement over the territory of Russia. The issue has not been worked on from the standpoint of strategic development for the last twenty years.

Of course, is interested in how the elaboration of the document may influence the development of the construction complex of Russia.

According to the Director of the Strategic and Territorial planning Department of the Ministry of Economic Development of the RF, a number of events for the construction complex of the country will be worked out. The analysis settlement will single out agglomerations and conurbations (a conurbation is an urban agglomeration of a polycentric type resulting from the expansion of several cities or towns). It is necessary to determine the peculiarities of Russian agglomerations and conurbations making them different from the ones in Europe, North America and Asia.

The most competitive areas should be formed within the strategy of spatial territorial planning. Special state programs may be adopted for their creation. Besides this, it is necessary that classification of the regions should be carried out as regards their industrial development to align the development of industries and territories. All these factors are to be taken into account as part of long-term planning of the construction complex development.


Strategy of stagnation

We have set out the official standpoint, but we must add some comments.

As we see, the Ministry of Economic Development is again preparing a strategic program for Russia — this time until as far as 2035. And the ministry is not daunted by the fact that none of the previous similar plans has been realized. And though officials from Alexei Uliukaev’s establishment assure us that the reasons for the previous failures have been analyzed, it does not seem convincing.

The thing is that no special analysis is needed here, and the reasons for the domestic economy’s troubles are very well known. And it is clear that the Ministry of Economic Development cannot alter anything cardinally.

It is not by chance that the program runs though until 2035: the longer the term, the less the responsibility for the results.

To remind you, a serious economic crisis has been going on in the country for two years already, and the Ministry cannot do anything about it.

The establishment resembles a doctor standing by a patient’s bed and registering his final suffering. And Mr Uliukaev, nicknamed Honourable Diver by his colleagues, announces that the crisis’ low point has been passed, and everything will turn out for the best.

But it is for the common people. What of the grand folk? The same institution promising us prosperity in 20 years is known to have issued a document saying that the stagnation in the economy will last until… 2035.

So, what are we being proposed? A program of strategic stagnation for Russia? But strategic plans are written with development in view. One may successfully stagnate without a heap of useless papers.

We are not against long-term strategic documents at all. Examples from Japan, South Korea, Singapore and a number of other countries prove their efficiency, but such plans may be useful only if their authors know how to overcome current troubles. We have a different tradition: the worse the current condition, the more rosy the future we are promised.

We could keep calm about the strategic games of Russian officials if they were not paid for with taxpayers’ money, i.e. our own roubles. Do you see what I am saying? The state is now reducing social expenditure and is instead offering us … a nice picture of the future.

Vladimir GURVICH