#10 - JRL 7258
Russian tycoon optimistic there will be no revision of privatization
Source: Channel One TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 20 Jul 03
Vladimir Potanin, a prominent Russian businessman and former first deputy prime minister, believes that the current dialogue between the state and big business is developing in a constructive way and that the results of the privatization of the 1990s will not be revised. In a live interview with Russian Channel One TV he asserted that the Russian business was ready to work for the good of the people and was capable of bringing the standard of living in Russia to a higher level. Following is the text of the interview, broadcast on 20 July
[Presenter] President of the Interros holding company Vladimir Potanin is a guest of our programme today. Vladimir Olegovich, good evening.
[Potanin] Good evening.
[Presenter] It is known that the sacred right of ownership is one of the pillars of any democratic society. Today, in Russia, many have a feeling that attempts are being made to revise the results of the privatization. Is this possible?
[Potanin] I think that the results of the privatization should not and will not be revised. In my view, a policy of developing a market economy and strengthening the institute of ownership is being pursued quite consistently in our country. A recent government decision on next year's privatization plan proves this.
[Presenter] There is a view that a problem exists only in the relations between the authorities and very big business, and that all that is happening will not touch ordinary proprietors, owners of flats, dachas and cars. Is this so?
[Potanin] I think this is a misconception. The process may start from large holdings, as the most visible ones, but it may be impossible to stop. Our country's historic experience proves this too. So we can start from large holdings, but end up living in rented flats.
[Presenter] In general, in relations between the state and big business, there is a very big danger of big business influencing politics. How can we avoid this?
[Potanin] The only way to avoid this is for big business not to deal in politics but to engage in dialogue with the authorities about the best ways to develop the country's economy. I think the dialogue which is now under way between the authorities and big business in our country, despite certain problems, is developing in quite a constructive way.
[Presenter] Tell us, why is all this happening now when everybody understands that dialogue is necessary?
[Potanin] You know, I think that in our country, historically, administrative and strong-arm methods of solving problems dominated over those based on prevention and incentives. This is understandable, because the level of social stratification is quite high and there is a feeling of a certain social injustice in society.
[Presenter] There is a notion of a social responsibility of business in developed democracies. Is Russia's big business ready for such a responsibility today?
[Potanin] Absolutely. I am convinced that it certainly is ready, and not only is it ready, but many of my colleagues behave exactly in this manner. Because the only way to be socially responsible is to work to eliminate the existing social injustice.
[Presenter] There is a lot of discussion in our society about the consolidation of the nation to further develop Russia. But what consolidation can we speak about when we are trying to divide something, rather than build up? Do you agree with this?
[Potanin] I completely agree with you. We can speak about consolidation only on the basis of build-up. Of course it is not possible to consolidate when the elimination of social injustice is done through taking something away from somebody and dividing it among all. This way, we can only achieve justice if we have equal level of poverty for everybody. I think that our country can develop in another way, when the most successful part of society works for the whole society, and social justice is being restored at another, much higher level of prosperity and a higher standard of living. And, you know, I think that the choice between these two recipes - to take away everything and redivide, or to consolidate and work - has been made. There have been many recipes but I like the one proposed by the president of our country, who said that we would be overcoming poverty on the basis of economic growth and the doubling of GDP, that is on the basis of creating something new and not on the basis of redistribution of something that has already been done.
[Presenter] Thank you Vladimir Olegovich for taking you time to answer our questions. These were comments from president of the Interros holding company Vladimir Potanin.