October 30, 2014 21:12

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A pleasure too costly

7.09.12 22:37    By Gazeta.ru editorial

A pleasure too costly

Photo: ITAR-TASS


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The chief task of the APEC summit in Vladivostok is to tackle the self esteem of the hospitable host of the meeting, Vladimir Putin. The most expensive social event on the planet promises almost nothing for our country.

The approximate cost of the APEC summit in Vladivostok is high beyond comparison for events of its kind – 680 billion rubles ($21 bln at current rates). For comparison, this is significantly more than Russian federal budget spends on education every year.
There is some practical good for the citizens of Vladivostok that comes from the development of Russky island and other objects built for the summit, but it cannot excuse the huge costs.

There's no sign the summit is the place for making important and profitable economic decisions for Russia. Of course, there's a package of projects, contracts and intentions protocols prepared for the summit, and they will be pompously signed there. But this is a usual ornament for important international meetings. These documents are not connected to the private talks between the important persons that also happen at such summits.

Strategic breakthroughs just cannot happen at the summit, at least because the Kremlin simply doesn't have any new ideas for a new role for our country in the Asia-Pacific region with its emerging countries, huge trade, and quick technological advancements. Putin's Russia, ultraconservative, manually governed, and expecting nasty tricks at every turn feels too uncertain in this advanced society.

Open Russian markets even wider to the cheap wares manufactured here? It's a scary thought, because these products are overly capable of competing. Exchange innovations? We seem to have nothing to offer.

Before the event, the Wall Street Journal Asia published an article signed by Putin called An Asia-Pacific Forum Agenda. We can call this short and unclear text only one thing: a message that the hosts of the summit have no serious agenda.

Readers of the WSJ are businessmen, their job is to make decisions. What new and important things will they learn from the article signed by our head of state?

They will learn that the liberalization of the world trade is a difficult thing. That "Instability in global food markets can lead to serious economic and social risks." And, naturally, that "Russia is a nation of broad opportunities." The conclusion that the readers will probably make out of it is that the Russian president just doesn't have much interest in the economic specifics of the Vladivostok summit.

The things that interest Putin much more can be learnt from his interview to the Russian state TV channel Russia Today, also "on the eve of APEC summit", as it was specially emphasized.

Putin decided to mention all the problems that interested him. He only mentioned the summit couple of times and talked about the necessity of guarding Syria and its government from the foreign forces, he rebuffed the Magnitsky list supporters and went into the Pussy Riot biography in disturbing detail.

The liveliness of this detailed, if biased, story contrasts so much with the dryness, shortness and cloudiness of his utterances about the APEC summit that it instead thoroughly shows what our leader takes seriously and what he doesn't.

The only really big issue that Moscow is ready to pose before the guest of Vladivostok is the issue of the massive investments in our transport infrastructure to sharply increase transit from Asia to Europe.

This plan looks sweet, but to execute it we would need to change literally everything – our attitude to business, professional qualifications and standards, the integrity of government officials, and our court system. Could we assure the foreign investors that this really changes are: fast, decisive, and in the right direction? It is clear we can't get off here with just a promise.

For now, the Vladivostok summit is exactly what it was designed to be – a lavish society event for high officials from twenty countries.
We should think, "it is really exciting, organized beautifully, and due to be remembered by all the happy participants." No need to argue, it will be grand, but maybe a bit too costly.

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