Staunton, November 16 – Russia’s millennials, those now in their 20s, will be the dominant political force in 20 years, Yevgeny Gontmakher says; and because they want the life that only specialization can make possible, they will return Russia to its past march toward integration in the global marketplace.
Those now in power are aware of this, the Russian economist says, and they know that when Russia reopens to the world, their own positions will be at risk because the country will want more economic development than they can offer; and the rising generation will demand changes in government policies to allow that (business-gazeta.ru/article/488411).
The longer those in the Kremlin resist such changes, the longer Russia’s economic stagnation will continue because the basic problem of Russia today is the government which is more interested in holding on to power and its own wealth than in promoting the development of the country as a whole.
And consequently, Gontmakher argues, the current retreat to economic isolationism is not a permanent condition but rather the result of a conjunction of circumstances in several countries, one that has been exacerbated rather than caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Those who take this short-term trend as something long term are making a mistake.
Because artificially high oil and gas prices and growing consumer demand in Russia for a time obscured this underlying reality, he continues, many thought Russia could go its own way. But neither is operative, unemployment is rising, and the standard of living of most people is declining.
What is needed, Gontmakher says, is a change in investment climate and that is possible only if there is “a radical transformation of the state system.” The Russian state now is too large, too centralized and too unwilling to allow the emergence of institutions that attract investment because they promise predictability. Now, the Kremlin opposes any change.
“We need to reconstruct the state so that the economy will be able to function on its own and the state on its own. This is important in principles. They we will obtain a rise in some economic activity” because business can function with far fewer fears and people can respect the state which stays within its limits.
Movement in these directions, Gontmakher argues, is likely to occur only when those now in their 20s become the dominant group in the administrative, business and intellectual elites. Such people will be “against isolationism and ‘iron curtains’” and who view themselves as citizens of the world.
Already, such people study and work abroad while retaining Russian citizenship. If Russia doesn’t change, “they will be lost for the country at least for the present. And if a large number of them stay abroad for a long time, I fear that these people will never return” – something that may allow those in power to remain there but will only harm the country.