Technological challenges and economic dynamics in the focus of Gaidar Forum discussion

The panel discussion, Technological Challenges and Economic Dynamics: What is Really Going on?, on the second day of the Gaidar Forum 2017 covered technological foundations for economic growth and new qualitative indicators to assess the economic situation.

The participants included CEO and Chairman of Sberbank Executive Board Herman Gref; Chairman of the Rusnano Management Company Executive Board Anatoly Chubais; Director of Industry Development Fund Alexei Komissarov, and Head of the Federal Service for State Statistics Alexander Surinov, as well as invited experts: Director of the "Young Professionals" Direction at the Agency for Strategic Initiatives Dmitry Peskov; Deputy General Manager and Program Director at RVK Yevgeny Kuznetsov; Governor of the Ulyanovsk Region Sergei Morozov and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Russian Investments Group Kirill Ignatiev.

The panel discussion was moderated by Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vladimir Mau. At the beginning of the discussion, he noted that the interrelation of new technologies with economic growth is very important and worth focusing on.

According to Anatoly Chubais, the modern world can be divided into two parts: information and materials. While the information has been rapidly evolving technologically for quite some time, materials are only going through the technological evolution now, despite great potential. He also noted that in the near future, three new technology clusters can develop in Russia. The first is renewable energy; the second, nuclear medicine. “This cluster has passed the point of no return,” Chubais said, noting that new methods of prevention and treatment of cancer are available today. The third cluster – industrial energy storage – can develop within the next three to five years, due to the fact that the power storage could help adjust the amount of electricity depending on what we need. “This leads to a complex logistics chain. This is a huge new sector. And now we are at a crossroads between consuming imported energy and generating it,” the speaker said.

The “golden age of industry, oil, real estate and today's financial system is coming to an end,” said Kirill Ignatiev. In the near future, technology companies will create prototypes, while outsourcing the production of full-scale working models fr om manufacturing companies. As a result, our country will gradually leave the cash era of today's financial system, he said, adding that information technology is one of the most important sectors for the country today. “It is important that businesses think like designers and academics think as businesses,” the speaker said.

Head of Federal State Statistics Service Alexander Surinov warned against measuring economic processes by one indicator only. In his view, this requires a comprehensive analysis many indicators. “Over the past eight years, we have made a huge step forward in the development of methods for assessing the macroeconomic situation and plan further work in this area,” he said.

Sberbank CEO Herman Gref said GDP was never intended to measure the quality of the economy. In some countries, quantitative indicators show stagnation, while all quality indicators are normal. According to him, indirect indicators are needed to measure technology’s contribution to the economy, to understand how to change its quality. You may want to judge the quality of the economy by employment structure, but it would be extremely difficult to measure it on this indicator alone. He also proposed using export structure indicators, as they more or less reflect the structure of GDP. “No sector has good prospects unless it is integrated,” he said, referring to the importance of the interaction between all industries in the economy.

According to Yevgeny Kuznetsov, “three or five years from now, we will see a situation wh ere human and robot functions will be difficult to distinguish.” He also said robots are gradually replacing not only blue collar workers, but the middle class as well. Today, this is mainly happening in finance and medicine.

Alexei Komissarov noted in his speech that measuring the state of the economy by GDP is an extremely complex and time-consuming process that involves many people and formulas. Given the current pace of life, this is not a positive factor, as “the statistics sometimes come late and differ from the real situation.”

Chief technical officer of Microsoft Rus Dmitry Khazin , answering whether Microsoft could repeat Nokia’s fate and split into a bunch of innovative companies, said that any company in the technology sector can pursue absolutely any purpose. “How will it develop further? There are many different scenarios,” he said. The processes unfolding in the market today are much deeper and affect everyone, including giants such as Google and Microsoft. Also, according to Khazin, any business owner should think about digital transformation, because it ensures a certain level of stability of business at present.

Summing up the discussion, Dr. Mau noted that, to evaluate the quality of public administration in the economic sphere, we can apply such criteria as private investment and mortgage lending dynamics, the availability of loans and the exports structure. However, these criteria will make sense only in the evaluation of actions and projections for three or four years. “It is impossible to develop an innovation-based economy with no margin for error. We need to understand this clearly,” he concluded.