INSOR Russia: Institute of Contemporary Development
Updated April 18, 2019

Igor Yurgens on Voice of Russia

August 2, 2012

Igor Yurgens on Voice of Russia

 

Below are excerpts from an interview with INSOR Management Board Chairman Igor Yurgens on the radio station Voice of Russia. The program (Vis-à-vis the World) was hosted by Armen Oganesyan and broadcast on July 31, 2012.

 

Igor Yurgens: I have dedicated four years to INSOR. It was conceived as one of the analytical think tanks of President Medvedev, and that’s what it became. But then Dmitry Medvedev, as we all know, changed positions.

 

In spite of my enormous loyalty to Dmitry Medvedev, I would note that at the beginning the liberal paradigm was chosen, “freedom is better than non-freedom,” but after being appointed prime minister and elected head of United Russia he said that in general he never was a liberal and holds other views. This is also a substantial public declaration.

 

 

Those researchers which gathered under these [liberal] banners are rather experienced, accomplished people who are not obliged to be confined to Institute of Contemporary Development. They can work wherever they want. We must decide for ourselves: does the switch from liberalism to conservatism, figuratively speaking, suit us? Should we link our policy prescriptions to a person who has chosen a somewhat different path?

 

I am not criticizing him in the least. Life changes constantly, and the people have spoken. Regardless about what has been said of the results of the election, more than 50 percent voted for stability, and they rallied around their leader Vladimir Putin.

 

Four years at INSOR were dedicated to liberalism. I think this has also become a personal conviction.

 

 

Armen Oganesyan: You have spoken about the fuzziness of the concept of liberalism. Before switching to this topic, I would like to point out that the word “conservative” is perceived as derogatory, although there is nothing derogatory about it.

 

Yurgens: No, it absolutely is not.

 

Oganesyan: Does it seem to you that in the modern world, as both sides are for a market economy (I mean the European conservatives and liberals), the difference between the two has been erased, particularly in the 20th century?

 

Yurgens: Yes. In our understanding, as we were taught in school, the party is the vanguard of the class. In terms of the class the difference is not significant between social democrats and conservatives with regard to the economy. Certain criteria have been erased.

 

Nonetheless, there is a parting of ways: individualism vs. collectivism. Should it be that strongest and smartest survive and do not need to have any obstacles put in their way, because when the pull themselves up they also pull up a lot of other people as well? Or, to the contrary, should these up-starts be equalized and the individual be put under the rigorous control of the collective, both on the national level and on the international level? These differences, in my opinion, have not been washed out.

 

 

In principle, the very core essence of liberalism, as I have come to understand it, is freedom, moderation and tolerance. This does not fit well with everyone on this side, as there can be those who are more severe with entrepreneurs, the rich, with regard to individual phenomenon, perhaps not so tolerant in terms of the issue of nationality or with regards to gender issues.

 

A party of freedom, moderation and tolerance, and, on the other hand, a party of robust origins going back to the religious past, the past of the nation represents a contradiction, but I do not see in this good guys and bad guys.

 

 

I have journeyed down a rather long path. I worked for 20 years in trade unions, first in Soviet and then in democratic, and then in entrepreneurs union. I can tell that in every thinking person, as I see it, the heart is on the side of the “left” and the brain is on the side of the “right”.

 

 

Question from Kiev: The accession of Russia to the World Trade Organization (WTO) has caused a substantial public reaction: some are in favor, others – against. What kind of prospects do you see for Russia in the WTO? What will the pluses be and what will the minuses be?

 

Yurgens: For the Russian consumer, for the vast majority of Russian citizens the difference will not be perceptible. As it is we have so much import on the Russian market, that our consumer is not going to see a noticeable additional effect from entry into the WTO. In the long-term perspective there will certainly be an effect. The strengthening of competition with foreign producers will lead to both higher quality and lower prices for a wide range of goods.

 

The producers of certain types of goods will have to give serious thought to the question of how to protect themselves, how to raise their competitiveness. The government understands this very well. And here I support the government. Our chief negotiator Maxim Medvedkov is a good acquaintance; he and I got started in the 1990s. I was engaged as a consultant on insurance and banking markets, I was a member of the team.

 

I can say that these 17 years of negotiations was an enormous education. A lot has been taken into consideration. Russia will apply 50 sets of protective measures, 14 of them concern agricultural producers, who will be in a difficult situation, as a lot of agricultural products are produced in Western Europe and America, and they are subsidized. Our position is not advantageous. So systemic measures need to be adopted here, and it is more or less clear which kinds.

 

For the public nothing will change, while in the long-term perspective it will change for the better. For metal producers this is a big plus, because antidumping investigations were being carried out and they had to pay big tariffs. Some country could say: “They are dumping, they are cutting metal prices to win a share of our market.” They won’t be able to do this anymore, because we are WTO members and there are the corresponding courts and expertise, and our competitors will be obligated to prove the dumping charges. In most case they won’t be able to do this.

 

Our main thing is oil and gas, and they are regulated not by the WTO but by international exchanges. Here our accession to the WTO will not produce any sort of economic effect.