The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum provides unique opportunities for interviewing people who would not normally talk to the media on a regular basis. Luckily for us, as forum participants, they are obliged to speak before the cameras and answer questions, whether they like it or not. This is really beneficial for the ‘Russia’ brand.
St. Petersburg hosts its 16th International Economic Forum on June 21-23. Valdaiclub.com interview with Igor Yurgens, Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute for Contemporary Development (ICD)
How would you define the role of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF)?
SPIEF is Russia’s most effective presentation platform. Unfortunately, our brands are often no match for foreign competitors, including brand ‘Russia’ itself. Although we now have the tools to convey what we have to say to the world, such as RussiaToday, the problem of a shortage of content remains. SPIEF combines the two. On the one hand, it is a tool for bringing people together and hosting them at a high level; on the other hand, it provides unique opportunities for interviewing people who would not normally talk to the media on a regular basis. Luckily for us, as forum participants, they are obliged to speak before the cameras and answer questions, whether they like it or not. This is really beneficial for the ‘Russia’ brand.
The program is structured around four key themes: Securing the Future; Realizing Russia’s Potential; Responding to Impact Technologies; and Leadership in Focus. Why do you think these specific issues have been put on the agenda?
That isn’t very important. All those issues and slogans will soon be forgotten. It simply means that the discussions will be grouped around four major themes. They are good enough and quite catchy but not really important for delegates arriving from other countries or from the Russian regions to meet with the right people and listen to the best speakers talk about issues they are interested in. Not all of them will take part in all the roundtables, themed workshops, meetings and seminars. They will stick to personalities. Their names are well known. So as I said, personalities are what matter, rather than topics or slogans.
At the same time, the catchy words were selected for a reason: “securing,” since Europe is in crisis, “leadership” since Russia has just elected a new leader, etc. Let me repeat: like many other investors, I don’t attach any great importance to this.
The Forum includes the Energy Club Summit, where Vladimir Putin will meet with the senior executives of the world’s leading energy companies. He will also, separately, meet with the leaders of the world’s leading investment funds. The Russian president has recently admitted that the risk of a new crisis is not purely hypothetical. What ways do you see of minimizing the consequences of the global financial crisis and avoiding a ‘new wave’?
This is a very complicated issue. Neither the G8 nor the G20 groups have so far been able to come up with an answer to your question. All they propose are general guidelines such as cut spending, stabilize budgets, recapitalize the banking system (because otherwise it will be both businesses and consumers that will be hardest hit) and look for growth points. But this is only a roadmap, while each case requires its own solution.
In Russia’s case, I can say that the government will come up with a bailout formula, while experts and academics will have a different one, and political parties will propose their own solutions.
We will select from those. We will study the details and see who puts forward the best anti-crisis policy. Personally, I have high expectations of the group that I joined earlier this year, the Committee of Civil Initiatives. We are working on our own anti-crisis program.
This year’s Forum will feature sessions in an unusual format: leading international experts in business, finance, technology and politics will be giving master-classes where they will give their view of the changing global situation. Why do you think a new format has been introduced?
Any forum is a living organism. There is a business plan and a management team whose task is to look for ways to attract as many people as possible and come up with new ways of presenting its activities. Master-classes are what they have come up with this time; but I will not be able to tell you how effective the new format is before I try it.
I don’t remember that there were master-lasses in Davos, which is a very popular economic forum. Time will tell if the master-classes at the St. Petersburg forum prove effective. I think that prominent experts sharing their views should attract a lot of attention.
‘Conversations Changing the World’ is a series of meetings with various leaders. Several prominent politicians will share their views on the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century, including Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and Russian statesman, academic and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. What are the geopolitical challenges of the 21st century, in your opinion?
There are three major threats. On the one hand, there is a possibility of a conflict of civilizations – a global conflict between Judeo-Christianity and Islam. On the other hand, there is a threat of shortages of food, water and other resources essential for human survival amid the ongoing global population growth. An environmental challenge is also possible.
It is difficult to make forecasts at this stage. Any expert who tries to make predictions about global risks always adds the proviso that somewhere up ahead there is a fork in the road. I will not make any forecasts.
During the forum Sberbank is holding a business breakfast, Old Agenda of the New Government: Prospects for Success? What milestones does Russia’s new government have to reach over the next few years to be recognized as successful?
They need to improve people’s welfare. That is how the performance of any government in any country is evaluated.