Herman Gref: "A collaboration strategy is always a win-win"

Trust as a factor and tool in economic development was discussed at the eponymous session of the 11th Gaidar Forum at the RANEPA. The discussion was attended by the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexey Kudrin, the Chairman of the Management Board of Sberbank Herman Gref, Senior Advisor to the Eastern Office of Finnish Industry, Prime Minister of Finland in 1991-1995 Esko Aho, Lead Social Scientist at the World Bank Michael Woolcock, a Co-Founder/Chair of IMAGINE Paul Polman, Dean of the Faculty of Economics of Lomonosov Moscow State University Alexander Auzan, and Governor of the Novgorod Region Andrey Nikitin.

As Alexey Kudrin noted, the level of trust becomes an important factor in the era of transformation. In his opinion, no reform will be successful if citizens, business, government, the "third sector", and other public institutions do not trust each other. "Reform always means taking steps that are uncomfortable for someone, and society must be sure that in a few steps everyone will benefit. Someone will inevitably lose in terms of resources, budgets, priorities, but in general, society should develop faster, living standards should grow faster," he said.

"Nothing strengthens trust so much as full prepayment," Alexander Auzan repeated a well-known joke. The economist suggested looking at the subject not from the point of view of politics or economics, but from the standpoint of biology. If, for example, a person’s intelligence level is 80 % stems from genetics, then the level of trust is a conditionally "innate" factor, and the influence of genes on it is from 5 to 20 %. That is, raising the level of intelligence is really difficult, but it is possible to raise the level of trust. "Trust is an alternative source of economic growth," said Auzan. "Now in Russia, the level of confidence is half as high as in Sweden, and if we had reached this level, the country's GDP would have grown by 69 %." Michael Woolcock also supported this idea. He said that now the level of trust in Russia is about the same as in Portugal, Lithuania or Thailand, and the contribution of this trust to the country's welfare is about 20 %, while in Sweden it is 50 %.

However, Herman Gref slightly cooled the ardor of economists, noting that advising to Russians to "become Swedes" is about the same as advising to mice to become hedgehogs. In his opinion, trust in Russia is based on the cultural code of the country, and we need to work in this area, developing culture and education. "I came to the conclusion that the most important minister in the government is the minister of education, not finance or economics. Note that not the higher, but the secondary education is more important, because it lays the foundation of the cultural code. We must explain to the children that apart from Darwin, there was Kropotkin who promoted the idea of ​​cooperation. A cooperation strategy is always a win-win, a benefit for all parties," Gref emphasized.

Andrei Nikitin believes that this practice is represented by the idea of ​​participatory budgeting, which is being implemented in the regions, when projects of local initiatives in the field of urban amenities are implemented on the principles of co-financing. "We spend huge amounts on roads, urban amenities, and repairing of social facilities,” he said. "The selection criterion is simple: the more residents of the settlement support the project, the more chances are that this project wins. We have funded more than 30 projects that were supported by 80–90 % of the residents of the settlements." According to the governor, such practices help citizens understand what needs to be done to improve their quality of life, set forth the priorities and, most importantly, learn to negotiate.

"Social capital in Russia is growing, and trust is growing," Alexander Auzan summed up the discussion.


The Gaidar Forum is held at the RANEPA under the auspices of the Government of the Russian Federation and in 11 years it has become one of the most respected expert venues, which traditionally sets the vector for public and scientific discussion at the beginning of each year. The organizers of the 11th Gaidar Forum are the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, and the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia.

The title partners of the Gaidar Forum are Gazprom PJSC and Gazprombank JSC. The strategic partners are Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Russian Railways, Pharmstandard group of companies, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Novartis group of companies, MSD, AKIG group of companies, EF Education First. Partners are Prosveshchenie group of companies, EY, Huawei, RVC JSC, Russian Agricultural Bank JSC.

The title information partners of the Gaidar Forum are the Russia-24 TV channel, TASS, RBC, Business FM. The strategic information partners are Kommersant Publishing House, Interfax, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Invest Foresight magazine, Federal Press Agency. The main information partners are Anews.com, Gazeta.Ru, Lenta.Ru, News.ru, Profile. Международные партнеры – RT, ThomsonReuters, Sputnik, EFE, Cision, Pan Pacific Agency. Information partners are Snob media project, AEI PRIME, RNS, Expert magazine, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Polit.ru, Ekho Moskvy radio station, PRO Business TV channel, FINAM.RU information and analytical agency, Davydov.Index holding, Strategiya magazine, Ekonomika i Zhizn newspaper, Econs portal, Gosudarstvennaya Sluzhba magazine, TV BRICS.