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Oct 14, 2021
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Accounts Chamber: 15 years at the very least, we’ll live on, then it’s a pipe

Photo: Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexei Kudrin

Photo: Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexei Kudrin (Photo: Press Service of the State Duma of the Russian Federation / TASS)

Submitting the draft federal budget for 2022 to the Russian government at the end of September, the Ministry of Finance suggested that during this period Russia would return to the post-Soviet maximum oil production, increasing its total hydrocarbon production by 8% at once, to 559.9 million tons.

Considering that state treasury revenues from oil and gas exports make up a good third of all sources of its replenishment, this looks quite reasonable, given that at the moment prices per barrel for the first time since 2018 have exceeded the $ 80 mark.

However, the same Ministry of Finance in early October admitted that in the long term, a catastrophic drop in global demand for hydrocarbons, if the Western countries agree on the decarbonization of their economies. If such a forecast is realized, the department’s analysts assumed that the cost of oil in the future will be determined by operating costs for its production, and therefore the cost of this resource may drop several times from its current values ​​- to about $ 25.

Against this background, the head of the Accounts Chamber of Russia Alexey Kudrin made an appeal to abandon oil and gas money as the main income of the federal budget. “In general, the Russian oil industry has lived for about 60 years, and we have 10-15 years left, if not completely abandon this, then start a smooth transition from using this source,” the official said, adding that in 30 years, the level of use of hydrocarbon sources in the world will decrease by half, which will become a serious challenge for Russia.

If you think about it, the proposal of Alexei Kudrin looks quite relevant and timely.

Assuming a tangible rise in oil prices in the near future, associate professor of the PRUE Plekhanov, economist Oleg Komolov in an interview with the “joint venture” noted that the possibilities of restorative growth of our economy have already been completely exhausted, and Russia urgently needs to look for new incentives for this, which, alas, even very expensive hydrocarbons will not be able to pretend to be. The most that can be done in such a situation is for some time more gently, without austerity, to balance the federal budget.

– Oil, as a type of fuel, in itself is already going down in history, although it is still in demand, and the technologies based on it are the brainchilds of the third, maximum of the fourth so-called technological orders, – he explained his point of view. – Meanwhile, the world is now on the verge of the sixth technological order, which, in simple terms, is based on the use of completely new technologies, implying the creation of a kind of neurointerfaces between the human brain and a computer using nanotechnology.

The traditions of industrial capitalism that have developed over the past 200 years are indisputable evidence that the country that became the leader of the next technological order and was the first to master and introduce new technologies into production, became, firstly, the world technological leader, and, secondly, the world hegemon of the global capitalist system.

Now there is a serious struggle for this title. And Russia, unfortunately, is not a subject of this process. The main players here are America and China, and the one who is the first to “straddle” the technologies of this very sixth order, or rather, introduce 5G networks, will receive a powerful impetus to rapid economic growth.

“SP”: – Do we still have a chance to get into this section and, as a result, take a worthy place among the advanced economies of the world?

– Of course have. Still, we still have an impressive human, technological and raw material potential, despite the fact that we are gradually losing it. Naturally, it is necessary to look at this in more detail and comprehensively, but offhand it seems to me personally that our military-industrial complex, having quite good global positions, can become a conductor of technologies of the sixth order in all spheres of our economy.

However armament economist Leonid KhazanovRussia is already exporting quite actively, but what comes of it? Only China and India can afford to buy it in large quantities, while the rest are afraid to fall under the anti-Russian sanctions, which the United States has introduced and is clearly not going to cancel in the foreseeable future.

Alas, there is nothing else to replace the export of Russian hydrocarbons to replenish the state budget. Neither food, nor machine-tool building, mineral fertilizers, let alone high technologies are developed in our country to such an extent as to export these spheres as one of the main sources of budget replenishment.

– From this point of view, – noted economist Nikita Maslennikov– we should think about rebooting the tax system from the position that the lower the taxes, the more business activity and the higher, as a result, the tax collection. But we, realizing this, but pushing it back to “someday later”, are going the other way – “plugging the holes” by raising taxes on mineral extraction (MET), on added income (NDT), oblige companies with state participation to invest 50 % of dividends and so on, intending to collect 2 trillion rubles for the treasury in three years.

“SP”: – So if the authorities understand that global structural changes in our economy are necessary like air, what prevents us from doing this right now?

– Firstly, this is hindered by the immensity of the task itself and the lack of experience necessary for its implementation, which is still limited to particular, point solutions. Secondly, such a structural restructuring requires at least the stability of the tax system, and, therefore, rather strict planning for government spending and a clear understanding of how our national projects work. And now there is none of this, while everything strongly resembles a school contour map, in which careless students draw the Ural Mountains along the Caspian Sea.

In addition, such changes imply a high degree of external and internal readiness of the entire public administration system for them. The decisions made must be fast, understandable, effective, convincing, and this is a completely different level of communication with business and citizens. To do this, they must become full partners of the state, and not like now, when decisions are made in a completely incomprehensible way, which is clearly confirmed by the recent initiative of the Ministry of Health regarding the compulsory health insurance system. But the authorities, alas, are not ready for this.

Finally, it is necessary to reduce the share of the state in GDP from the current 50-60% to lower values, which implies a reform of the public sector. However, I, for example, do not know such people who are now ready to take and reform the same Gazprom and Rosneft. Because for such changes, the political system also needs to be changed. But where, how and how to go in this – we have neither sufficient experience nor understanding.

“SP”: – You said – the government is not ready for changes. Do we have there, figuratively speaking, have enemies settled down, or do our comrades lack competence?

– This is not some kind of malicious intent, but objectivity. Although a certain number of people in the corridors of power think something like this: “Why do we need these changes at all? Not only is it difficult, it is also incomprehensible – but where is our place in this whole new system? “

And this causes a chain reaction of “inhibition” – and let’s wait until the answers are found on their own, or even better – let the next generation decide them. As a result, economic problems are driven deep, and as a result, we have what we have.

Although, in principle, in 15 years Russia may well get off the “oil and gas needle”, because the history of Holland, reminds Associate Professor, RANEPA Sergey Khestanov, shows that it is, albeit with difficulty, but still real.

“But at the same time,” he stressed, “one should not forget about one unpleasant circumstance – according to some preliminary calculations, the Russian level of GDP per capita is approximately equal to the Ukrainian one. And there, as we all know perfectly well, the standard of living, to put it mildly, is much lower than the Russian one. So one can roughly assume where exactly Russia will get off the oil needle. So from this point of view, it turns out that the more we sit on this needle, the better it will be in tactical economic interests.

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