27 February 2020, Thursday, 8:48
The Wait Is Nearly Over

Economist: Game Over, Your Goose Is Cooked

Economist: Game Over, Your Goose Is Cooked

The "collective farm-oil free" era has come to an end.

On January 15, Russian President Putin announced large-scale changes to the Constitution, which provide for serious redistribution of powers and authority.

Immediately after that, the Russian government resigned in full, and Mikhail Mishustin was appointed as prime minister instead of Dmitry Medvedev.

What can these changes mean both for Russia itself and for Belarus?

Head of the Strategy analytical center, economist Leanid Zaika answers the questions of Charter97.org.

- In your opinion, what has happened in Russia and what consequences can it have for the political system of the eastern neighbor?

- I think there is a kind of dramatic pause. Either this authoritarian, totally ineffective system will continue to take root, or Russia will embark on a path of a more democratic development procedure.

The basic idea, I think, is absolutely right: to remove this rigid presidential power. I think that power in Russia will gradually pass into the hands of the parties. Certainly, there is its own nomenclature party, but as a whole powers of parliament will be expanded, there will be struggle for places in the government, struggle for opinion of voters.

I think that by doing so Putin is preparing a soft "transition" to another form of government. Naturally, a lot of people do not like him, but I would say that, in my opinion, he is preparing himself for the role of prime minister. In fact, this means far more far-reaching consequences than it seems. It may even mean a gradual transition to a parliamentary-presidential form of governing.

I would like to point out that this was done quickly: Medvedev did not know about it, Medvedev was shocked, apparently. The new government is likely to become a transitional one. Putin has appointed Mishstin for this role. I have taken a close look at his entire biography and I'm evaluating it as a 4+ one. He is a representative of a new generation in politics for the Russian Federation, a graduate of the Machine-Tool Institute, a specialist in the field of automated control systems, he has done a lot for digitizing the tax system, cadastral accounting and property accounting, and even defended his doctoral thesis on these topics. In general, I tend to give him a positive assessment.

- But a great number of people are far from such an assessment of what is happening in Russia... For example, has it been announced that the powers of a new unconstitutional body, the State Council, have been expanded, and it seems that Putin may become its head. Don't you think that this is rather a Nazarbayev scenario of "transit" of power to himself?

- Against this background, Nazarbayev is a small "kindergartner" from the second class of the church gymnasium.

I think that we are dealing with the Chinese variant. It was all done by Deng Xiaoping. As a Marxist, he understood the main formula for China: "Rifle gives birth to power". And formally, Deng Xiaoping was just chairman of the Armed Forces Council...

And the State Council in Russia is a kind of insurance element, like a reserve parachute, to intervene in case of emergency. This is because there are different deputies. There are, for example, "beautiful and stupid" ones, as in Belarus. Therefore, another element, which would be an insurance one, is needed. And the State Council will play such a role in Russia. If I were Russians, I would call it the Council for Development Strategy. So that nothing related to "security" would appear in the name at all.

- Putin's decision was announced in the midst of the oil and gas war with the official Minsk and the discussion of action plans for "deeper integration". What does the change in Russian politics mean for the Belarusian authorities?

- The Belarusian authorities have such a disease - they consider themselves to be the focal point of the universe. Our local, so to say, politicians suffer from it - although they can be called politicians only by functional terminology.

Right from the start, the Belarusian authorities did the following: they got their teeth into the oil and gas pipe and started to feast solemnly on it. When the Russians came to senses, they understood that it was necessary to remove this stupid system of export duties - it was a mistake of Russian economists - and proceeded to seizing regional rents.

A lot of economists, including me, were telling the Belarusian authorities: do not rest at the expense of others' work, develop your own economy. Develop new industries - such as electric transport. Russians will produce their first electric car in the first quarter of this year, Georgians will also produce their own electric cars. And here they are doing the following: have let a bit of oil go down the Russian pipes and enjoy themselves. The pipe is standing still while the world is developing.

And Russia is going its own way too. Who will reckon with some local little czars who sponge on others? What will happen now for such countries, for Lukashenka? Guys, take an example from those who develop independently. What kind of action plan can be there? That's it, they have forgotten about it. Let him jump now and get knickers in a twist. He (Lukashenka - ed.) will now stop the pipes or do something else...

That's it! The game is over! Your song has already been sung - you don't need a fifth verse. That's enough, there have been four verses already...

- How will Russia react to this?

I think that the Russians will not interfere in this. Let the authorities see for themselves, see what they have come to. It can already be seen from the results of the year (I did the analysis) that we have a huge deficit in foreign trade. In Homel and Vitsebsk (the regions where the oil refineries are located), the deficit is one billion dollars in each! That is, they buy products worth one billion dollars more than they sell on foreign markets.

And the biggest deficit of $3.4 billion is in Minsk. Minsk public and private enterprises have sold products abroad by $4 billion less than they bought.

And this is in the city, where Lukashenka is sitting! What is he talking to his assistants about? A small city, only 2 million people - and 4 billion deficit of foreign trade! Do you guys have any idea what you deserve? What do you fancy about yourself?

So we need to take these figures, look at them, create our own economy - new, computer, digital, electric transport. Well, at least they'd start making electric scooters...

Work - why do you hold on to this oil? That's not your oil. It's the oil of the Nanai, Yamalo-Nenets and other regions. This collective farm gas-oil rainbow post-Soviet era is coming to an end.

- The new premier of the Russian Federation is a taxman with a reputation of a pragmatic man and a technocrat. Does this mean that Russia will now count every ruble in its dealings with Lukashenka?

- Here you can take a look at each candidate. In Russia, the head of the Upper Chamber is a pharmacist from Shepetivka. The Prime Minister was Medvedev - a teacher of constitutional law. The Constitution has never worked in Russia - so what did he teach?

In Belarus today the Prime Minister is a nomenclature minister, I would say, practically a military financier. Among professional economists, this is the 2nd-3rd class, let him be offended, but in reality it is so, I am not lying.

Now let’s talk about Mishustin. In principle, he has done a lot for the Russian tax system. He is quite a pragmatist, but he does not know economic theory, macroeconomics to him is the same Greek as to our Rumas. But he has practical persistence, the ability to create coherent systems and mechanisms.

Now what concerns Belarus. It will be absolutely right for him: if you guys want to work properly - come on, we will help you to create an absolutely automated system of any taxes, everything will be evident. And it is self-defeating for Lukashenka.

So I think that there will be a kind of political bias here. After all, Belarus under Lukashenka has stuck in the past: here we have ladies and gentlemen of an absolutely Soviet, collective farm level. In general, everything that will be done in Russia now, I think, will be felt in Belarus too. I think that Russia will make it clear: enough of this goofiness.

Or else they come to Moscow, they rush, they lift their hands in dismay: give us the export duty. Such conversation will not work. These are completely different levels of people. And Lukashenka is not sticking in there at all. He looks like an old man who came from Mahiliou region to Washington to get a new laptop.