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Nizhny Novgorod 5-7 October 2011 André Mommen
Are communications a decisive factor of national development or are they just accompanying the globalisation drive of global capital? The massively attended XVI International Forum of Russia United held at the Yearmarket in Nizhny Novgorod on 5-7 October heard many a Russian specialist together with several foreign speakers explained which kind of challenges should be met in the next future in order to keep up with the globalization process of capital and how to develop Russia’s economy in function of the ongoing technological revolution and competition also coming from emerging economies like China and India. The presence of Governor Valeriy Shanteev, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Yury Trutnev, Minister of Communications Igor Shegolev and many other leading politicians, managers and communication specialists illustrated that the importance of these issues could no longer be ignoered. Meanwhile, the government of the Russian Federation has chosen for an economic development strategy stressing the role of new technologies in order to increase productivity and foster diversity. Russia’s economic growth should no longer be depending on its oil and gas exports, but on new technologies developed in technoparks in close relationship with new industries and high tech firms taking the lead in the countrys economic development program. Promising initiatives have already be taken, such as the case of the Novosibirsk techno park is learning us. But what will be the success of all these new initiatives trusting on scientific research and development? Will they give birth to dynamics resembling Sillicon Valley? And how to integrate new technologies into existing firms and production lines? Better communication will be helpful. As we are living in a global network society with scientists and industrialists forming clusters of innovative transformation processes, it will be obvious that Russia’s national economic development will also depend on the country’s ability to integrate better into the world economy by opening its internal market and production centers to foreign influences. Establishing joint ventures and signing cooperation accords with
foreign firms could ease the modernization process of local industrial and services firms. Public-private partnerships should be used in order to modernize Russia’s infrastructures (harbors, airports, roads) as well and ease the transition to a postindustrial society. An important discussion point in the panels emerged concerning the problem how implementing policy measures at the local level. A general globalization theory is, however, not apt to serve as a base for regional development stratyegies. Hence, Saskia Sassen (Columbia University – New York and London School of Economics – UK) defended during the plenary opening session her well-known thesis that the global city is now the driving force and center of cultural social and economic change. She admitted that Nizhny Novgorod was not on her list of 60 global cities she had analyzed in her recently published book of which she handed over a copy to Governor Shanteev with the message that, maybe, in an updated edition, Nizhny Novgorod could be included as well... The problem with Sassen’s theory about the role of the global city is that not all global cities are centers of innovation, which the case of Sillicon Valley amply had proven. The Chinese global cities (Hong Kong, Shanhai, Beijing) are both industrial and financial centers, not hot spots of technological innovation. By the way, the Chinese economy is still heavily depending on traditional sources of energy, such as coal. China’s industrialization drive is built on low wages and ecological detoriation, which is the denial of any form of sustainable development. Chinese firms are copying products developed in foreign countries, not developing new technologies. The “Asian model” based on export-led economic growth was nonetheless haunting the conference. Obviously, authoritarian political leadership had paved the Asian road to economic growth in function of forced industrialization and export-led growth. How to explain that success? And could that model also be applicated to the Russian case? The example of Singapore’s “economic miracle” was cited by Igor Kucheraviy (Tronic Group) because of the mini-state’s high growth rates combined with political and social stability, notwithstanding the island’s multi-cultural population. This thesis was loudly opposed by
Roland Robertson (University of Aberdeen – UK) in a discussion panel, but without referring to the concrete situation in Russia or designing an alternative political structure enabling the central or regional government to deal with actual economic problems. As regionalism remains a topic of political importance and economic strives, its political relevance was debated in general terms. Regions develop their own strategies of economic and social development. Therefore they are lobbying for funding and development of their natural resources. Is there any model available helping the poor regions to overcome their economic backwardness and some old industrialized regions in order to stop the decay of their traditional industrial activities. From a more theoretical point the impact of globalization on all segments of Russian society was discussed as well, because industrial restructuring is also accompanied by population movements. Young and educated people are moving to Moscow or abroad, which is the source of an important brain drain which is impoverishes available human resources. A form of “third-worldization” of the Russian economy is noted. Maybe that Irina Busigina (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) had understood the real meaning of the concept “global city” better than Saskia Sassen when stating that Moscow was not a global city, but just a big local city lacking all main characteristics Sassen had enumerated… That the avarage living standandard per capita of the population is much higher in Moscow than in other regions and that career possibilities are better, young educated people from all over Russia and other CIS countries are going to Moscow instead of contributing to local development. Should one therefore try to stop Moscow’s expansion as a national metropolis? However, many tendencies can be identified in Russia’s recent regional social and economic development. Emperical research has revealed that people are identifying themselves more and more with their regions where they are living. Igor Zadorin ((Tsirkon Research Group) reported that seperatist tendencies were nonetheless not developing in the Russian
Federation. But how should one interprete this emerging regional conciousness? Although it is impossible to give an overview of all themes debated in the working and discussion groups, it is nonetheless striking how diverse and rich the indiviudal contributions were and that many scientists and experts had developed original and valuable new ideas about the impact of the globalization process on the Russian state and economy. The openess during the debates was striking. The political relevance of many proposals and opinions were undeniable. But how to translate them in policy guidelines? Globalization also means that a successful trade policy will depend on local and national capacity building. Obviously, economic growth based on technological innovation should be fostered by investing in applied sciences in connection with Research and Development of new products and production processes. Nanotechnology, automation and robotics, biotechnology, computer applications, electronics, etc. are developing beyond regional and national borders, byt repuire also local networks. Development of human resources will be of crucial importance in this process one calls the ongoing “third industrial revolution”. Fortunately, the international forum “Russia United” in Nizhny Novgorod has put all these issues on the agenda again. It will niw be the task of the Regional Government, the scientific institutions and the business community to join hands in order to draft innovation programs and having htem implemented. However, the XVI Nizhny Novgorod Fair itself gave, the impression that not all firms present were preparing for the future. Many products they had brought in were rather traditional. One could see utility vehicles, heavy machinery and even an old-fashioned Lada 2112 AvtoVaz had a few years ago introduced on the Western market , but without any success. The Russian motor-car manufacturers, including GAZ, are now trusting on alliances with western firms in order to modernize their offer. Manufacturers from Bielo Russia were also present at the Fair, but, according to a Bielo-Russian representative, many firms had cancelled their participation because of the economic crisis. Having
technological high-quality products and foreign firms exhibiting at the Fair, together with the use of foreign languages, will be in the near future indispensable.