ZenPundit
Saturday, January 15, 2005
 
NIC PROJECT 2020 SNIPPET

I am not ready to tackle the report in its entirety but here is a snippet followed by my commentary in regular text:

"Russia’s energy resources will give a boost to economic growth, but Russia faces a severe demographic challenge resulting from low birth rates, poor medical care, and a potentially explosive AIDS situation. US Census Bureau projections show the working-age population likely to shrink dramatically by 2020. Russia’s present trajectory away from pluralism toward bureaucratic authoritarianism also decreases the chances it will be able to attract foreign investment outside the energy sector, limiting prospects for diversifying its economy. "

Vladmir Putin, via his control of the Duma through sham political parties and the self-destruction of the democrats, is in a critical position. Should he make use if his effectively dictatorial powers to establish a modern, rule of law, state then things will change. Putin's reform of the tax system to lower confiscatory tax rates ( that no one paid) showed a grasp of the need for Russia to accept market-based rule-sets. Can he take the same step in the domain of law and politics ?

Of course, this has been the question for Russia since the 1840's when the first modernizers appeared in the Tsarist bureaucracy of Nicholas I. ( Book Recommendations: In the Vanguard of Reform and The Great Reforms by the late W. Bruce Lincoln)

" The problems along its southern borders—including Islamic extremism, terrorism, weak states with poor governance, and conflict—are likely to get worse over the next 15 years. Inside Russia, the autonomous republics in North Caucasus risk failure and will remain a source of endemic tension and conflict. While these social and political factors limit the extent to which Russia can be a major global player, in the complex world of 2020 Russia could be an important, if troubled, partner both for the established powers, such as the United States and Europe, and the rising powers of China and India. The potential also exists for Russia to enhance its leverage with others as a result of its position as a major oil and gas exporter. "

Gas in particular. Russia has approximately 20 % of the world's known natural gas reserves and if the costs for building the liquified natural gas terminals, which run into the low billions, can be brought down or end up being an economical investment relative to rising prices for crude oil, then Russia could become the Saudi Arabia of the north.

The question remains " the social and political factors" - the Russian predisposition for irrationalist rule-sets has been a perennial problem with Russian modernization programs no matter whether they were being enacted by Peter the Great, Josef Stalin or Mikhail Gorbachev. One reformer who briefly succeeded, Nicholas II's pre-WWI Prime MinisterPetr Stolypin, had it right when he taunted the radicals in the Duma that while they wanted " great uphevals, what we want is a Great Russia !". Stolypin was eventually assassinated by a terrorist but not before his liberalizing reforms gave Russia the greatest period of real economic growth and foreign investment in its history. A peak not be matched again until the early 1960's.

The NIC did a nice job here, I must say.

 
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