Staunton, April 26 – “The sovereignty of a country, Yakov Geller, the head of Tatarstan’s State Purchasing Agency, “is not just about having rockets but about producing decent toilet paper” for the population.” If it has only the former but not the latter, that country is not fully sovereign.
Import substitution is thus about making the country truly sovereign, the Tatarstan official says; and he describes what his agency is doing to promote that. It has created a website listing all the things that Tatarstan has been importing and then asking people to come up with alternatives produced within Russia (business-gazeta.ru/article/548174).
At present, Geller continues, the site of the Republic Marketing Center lists “more than 108,000” kinds of goods that Tatarstan bought from abroad last year, including things like door closers, and also lists 114,000 proposals by businesses in Tatarstan which would like to get support to produce domestic alternatives.
Not all of these proposals can be accepted, of course, he says; and once they are weeded out, it is necessary to look beyond the borders of Tatarstan to other Russian regions to find companies which might be capable of doing so. But these portals and their use by officials to find businesses capable of producing inside Russia what it has been importing are essential.
Indeed, unless they are promoted and exploited, import substitution is unlikely to take off across the board. Geller does not say but his words suggest something else: Russian regions and republics are likely to be made increasingly conscious of just how much they have to depend on others and how much they can do on their own.
And that in turn will prompt at least some in these places to argue that relations between themselves, their neighbors and Moscow must change if Russia is to become sovereign not only in terms of rockets but in terms of toilet paper as well.