Staunton, Sept. 13 – Sergey Shoygu’s call for developing Siberia by building new cities is “not an economic but a socio-political project directed at retaining and strengthening sovereignty,” Dmitry Zhuravlyev says. It is not something that can be achieved by market methods and there is no certainty that it can be achieved at all or that the cost won’t be greater than the reward.
The problem is, the director of the Moscow Institute for Regional Problems says, is that it is not clear whether there is any alternative. But before any decision is made about this project, there are eight important questions that he suggests Russians should be asking themselves and each other (realtribune.ru/novoe-osvoenie-sibiri-skolko-stoit-proekt-shojgu).
First of all, “Is it necessary to develop Siberia?” On the one hand, Russia is able to extract and export raw materials from there without a great number of people. And on the other, whenever the Russian state has pursued such an enormous project, the state has grown fat and the people have become poorer.
But at the same time, “if we don’t develop Siberia, others will develop it, and our [Russian] will be poorer still.”
Second, “Is it necessary to for the development of Siberia to build new cities or would it suffice to develop older ones and carry out processing there?”
Third, “are we ready to sell the products of such reprocessing?” Many are ready to purchase our raw materials, but not all of them are enthusiastic about buying those which we have processed. Can we be sure that they will change their minds?
Fourth, “how can we attract people to Siberia and who will go there?” Money is the obvious answer, but many Russians are suspicious of any new project given their experience that with time the money runs out and they are left without incomes.
Fifth, “do we have sufficient construction capacity for carrying out this project?” “Russia is not the US,” Zhuravlyev says. And if we have to borrow money, isn’t there a risk that those who make the loans will end up de facto in control of the region, precisely the opposite outcome that Shoygu says he wants.
Sixth, if we are going to pay for this domestically, the only way that will be possible is for the rest of the country to give up its development. Are other regions ready to do that? Are they prepared to see their standard of living stagnate or even decline so that this giant project can go forward?
Seventh, “If the project is realized, won’t the price be too high?” Isn’t there a danger that it will cost so much that Russia will never get the return on its investment it hopes for and thus will be in a worse position than now.
And eighth, is such a project “in general possible in a market economy?” Under Peter the Great or Stalin, no one carried about costs, only results. But that isn’t the case now. Are Russians willing to see their country become totalitarian so that this project is achieved – or is it even possible that what construction of Siberian cities is about is precisely with that goal in mind?