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Sep 15, 2022
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Integration with Ukraine: what needs to be changed in the Russian economy

We constantly say: “Ukraine must return to its” native harbour,” to our common family.” The vast majority of Russian citizens and, I think, a significant part of Ukrainian citizens agree with this. The only question is whether our common “harbor” is ready to receive new ships, boats or barges. The question is not that we, Russia and Ukraine, have become different in 30 years. This gap is completely surmountable. The problem is that for successful integration, we in our Russia need to change ourselves right now, as they say, at a faster pace.

I am certainly concerned about the financial, legal, organizational, and, finally, the mental and ideological aspects of integration. But the main thing for me here is not even this, but the fact that in a number of strategically important positions we in Russia categorically do not correspond to our own ideas about beauty. I will explain on several issues that are significant for me as a politician and scientist.

The first problem is integration into the system of Russian education. This is the most important thing in eliminating the ideological gap between Russian society and new citizens from the Ukrainian regions. I repeat, all mental differences are surmountable. They are catastrophic only if we are dealing with frank “Petliurites” or “Banderaites”, which, in fact, we do not need in Russia. Russia needs the energy of young and warm hearts. But we cannot help but recall that we ourselves have a huge number of questions regarding the national system of school, secondary vocational, and university education.

How can we integrate new citizens of our country, including young ones, if we ourselves are not satisfied with our education? Its problems are well known, chief among which is the timing discrepancy. Our education is not yet able to solve the tasks of forming a harmoniously developed personality of a young citizen and patriot. And I’m not exaggerating here. February 24 this year exacerbated many of our problems. Some of them took decades to develop. Today, the realization of the need for their speedy resolution has come.

The second problem is our economy. Now there is a question about the successful integration of Donbass, the regions of Novorossia and Little Russia. The task is important and grandiose. I am not afraid of this comparison, but we, as an economic system, solved tasks of similar complexity for the last time during the post-war reconstruction of the country in the 1940s and 1950s. Then this recovery was successful. We not only confirmed our well-deserved position as the world’s second economy, but also staked out our status as a world leader in a number of fields of knowledge and activities for many years to come. Many backlogs have not been exhausted so far.

Of course, now a lot is being done to ensure that social infrastructure facilities, as well as other organizations necessary for normal life, function in the new territories, as they say, smoothly. But these, I repeat, are necessary, but far from sufficient conditions for the successful development of new territories. We need the restoration of a normal economy, effective economic ties, we need economic and industrial integration, both with all of Greater Russia and with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

I repeat, we, like air, need to restore the economy of new territories. But here the big question arises: what kind of economy do we want to revive? The one that flourished in Ukraine for more than 30 years? Oligarchic, corrupt, parochial? Absolutely not! Then, perhaps, we want the Russian economy to flourish in the new territories? And do we like it? Does she really suit us? Doesn’t it contain a huge number of contradictions? And there is no obvious answer, no ready-made solution.

We in Russia have a huge number of questions regarding the domestic economic system. I will name just a few of them. First, we do not have a clear and justified mechanism for financing the country’s economic development. There is no smell of a systematic approach here. On the one hand, we have huge government spending to support “everything and everything”, and on the other hand, there is no any significant strategy for ensuring faster economic growth. For example, we have not moved further than talking about the targeted emission of colored digital rubles for the development of infrastructure and the modernization of the national economy, although it would seem that all the prerequisites for the implementation of this tool are in place. Another aspect is project financing. Where is the effective and understandable principle of state support for the production of domestic goods in the context of ensuring import independence? Even if a certain Russian entrepreneur wanted to start producing in Russia, say, modern analogues of imported equipment, then where would he find funding to start production? Go to the bank? Pledge property? Wasting time and effort on proving your worth? Probably, in the context of the need to ensure rapid economic growth, decisions on the allocation of the necessary funding should be made easier, more efficiently, and necessarily with state participation.

Secondly, speaking about the problems of our economy, I would like to note that we have a huge gap in the economic development of our regions, ranging from prosperity in the capital to depopulation in the “north”. Yes, we can, as they say, rush in and solve this or that regional problem with the whole world, but so far we have not been able to ensure the systematic progressive development of the regions. Now, of course, significant investments will be directed to the restoration of new territories, and the result here, of course, will be guaranteed. We have already successfully passed this in Chechnya in the “zero” and “tenth” years, in the Crimea and Sevastopol after 2014. But, I repeat, large-scale public investment, of course, is not enough. It is necessary to create conditions for the reproduction of the economy in new territories, and this is already a task not only and not so much of investment, but to a greater extent of the implementation of a conscious strategic economic policy, which, frankly, is not all right with us at the federal level.

Finally, thirdly, in the economy, we still have a total lag in the pace of infrastructure development from the possible pace of economic and social development. I’m not afraid of this word, but most of the infrastructure facilities in our country are outdated both morally and physically. This also applies to transport infrastructure, housing and communal services, and many other facilities related to life and economic development. We lack not only airplanes or ships, but we do not have enough length and capacity of railways, highways, etc. River transport has actually ceased to exist. We need new bridges, airports, logistics centers like air. All this is necessary, as they say, right now. And this is also a question for our economic policy, which, as always, turned out to be unprepared for new economic realities. Will these contradictions slow down integration with new territories? From the point of view of the historical process, of course not. But from the point of view of solving specific production, logistics, including commercial tasks, I am sure that questions, as they say, will appear. And here, too, it would be possible to return to the conversation about targeted emission for the development of infrastructure, but our financial and economic bloc of the government and the Central Bank again have their own special, habitual negative opinion for them. They still have “the economy must be economical.”

The third problem is, of course, our Russian poverty. Without delving into reasoning and evidence, I want to state with all frankness: “Poverty is evil.” Unfortunately, in all recent years, including the “fat decade”, we have not been able to overcome this social malaise. The Russians are still poor. We also have the social phenomenon of the working poor, which is nonsense in general from the point of view of social development. We understand that this problem cannot be solved quickly. But at the same time, the state has not yet implemented the necessary amount of measures to minimize the reproduction of poverty.

Let me give you a simple example: our minimum wage still does not correspond to the subsistence minimum, and the latter does not correspond to socio-economic realities. All attempts to fix the minimum wage and the living wage at a level corresponding to the quality of life standards have not yet led to any significant substantive decision and are constantly running into the well-known opposition of the financial and economic bloc of the government. Our state so far, alas, categorically does not want to give money to our people. I am not saying that we do not have any anti-poverty programs in our country. They certainly exist, and many even work. But, in the opinion of a number of authoritative experts, decisions regarding the eradication of poverty as a social phenomenon should be more resolute, consistent and, if you will, aggressive. And there is no need to be afraid of the direct distribution of money either. In my opinion, inflationary risks from the same fair basic income are incomparably lower than from the constant reproduction of poverty. I repeat, this social malaise may prevent us from solving our priority tasks in Ukraine, and this is now completely unacceptable.

We can talk about our Russian troubles for a long time. We all know them very well. It’s just that now is such a time that there should be no difference between “knowing” and “acting”. “If you can, then you must.” And this awareness is already happening. The success of the integration of the former Ukrainian territories into Greater Russia depends on many factors. And the solution of the long overdue internal economic and other problems of our Russia will ensure not only the effectiveness of this integration, but also form the strategic stability of our common civilization, God forbid, for many centuries to come.

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