President Dmitri Medvedev is again proposing major
international economic reforms even as he acknowledges that
over-reliance on extractive industries, corruption, and inflation are
hampering modernization of the Russian economy.
keynote address to the annual Saint Petersburg Economic Forum,
President Medvedev called for new standards to regulate international
financial markets, new rules of energy cooperation, new reserve
currencies, including the Russian ruble, and new financial institutions
Medvedev says these should, in the final analysis, be fundamentally new
institutions, that will not be dominated by individual political plots,
motives, governments or countries.
Russian leaders have been
pushing the idea of replacing existing international financial
institutions and reserve currencies over the past year. Economic
expert Yevgeny Volk, director of the Heritage Foundation in Moscow,
told VOA the Kremlin proposals are motivated in part by a desire to
reduce U.S. global economic influence. He notes, however, that the
Russian economy is only one-fifth the size of America's.
Kremlin rulers, says Volk, want to reinforce their superpower ambitions
in the political arena, and the economic aspect involves showing that
the ruble is capable of an international role, which would
simultaneously demonstrate that Russia is a great nation.
Medvedev told the Forum that Russia is in a relatively early stage of
economic development, relies too heavily on extractive industries, and
is mired in centuries of corruption. He said his country has a
critical need to develop an intellectual or knowledge-based economy.
This, he notes, would require dominance of the middle class, ability to
react to a rapidly changing world, active entrepreneurs, and a mobile
The Russian leader says every person must understand
a rather simple thing: it is necessary to become more mobile, sometimes
changing jobs and even location to ensure the comfort of families and
the education of children.
But Yevgeny Volk says Kremlin talk of
diversification and mobility amounts to sloganeering. He says ordinary
Russians are reluctant to move, and notes their government has not
taken concrete steps that would encourage them to do so.
says the Russian housing market is at a beginning stage, and living
conditions differ sharply in various regions of the country. The
European part of Russia, he says, is more developed, but the
infrastructure needed for civilized work is virtually non-existent in
those areas most in need of labor - Siberia, the Far East and in
sparsely populated areas.
For the foreseeable future, the
Russian economy is likely to rely on energy exports and the global
price of oil. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told the Saint
Petersburg Forum that $75 per barrel is a fair price, but warned it
could hit $150 dollars within three years if investments are not made
to increase production.