President Putin tells business executives to become teachers President Putin meets with business leaders
President Putin meets with business leaders annually. In this era of "equidistance," businesses no longer use these meetings to suggest anything to the president or draw his attention to their problems. The business community is now using these meetings to receive Putin's messages.
President Putin meets with business leaders annually. In this era of "equidistance," businesses no longer use these meetings to suggest anything to the president or draw his attention to their problems. The business community is now using these meetings to receive Putin's messages. The latest message so far comes down to the invitation to private enterprise to sponsor the tasks that are supposed to be handled by the state in the first place and that are known as national projects nowadays. As for the state, it has energetically gone into business itself.
Leaving the conference hall yesterday, business leaders looked content. They had agreed in advance to concentrate on one subject only (the national project in the sphere of education) but ended up discovering very many important things from other spheres as well.
For example, everyone was stunned by President Vladimir Putin's reference to the talks over membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO). (The United States is the last country with which Russia has to complete WTO accession negotiations.) Putin said that "the United States is orchestrating artificial setbacks... For example, we received a list that requires some additional coordination now, a list of the matters we thought we had already resolved." The national leader reiterated Moscow's firm stand on the matter: membership only on acceptable terms. "Joining the WTO or not is not the question. It is the membership terms that count," Putin said, commenting on a speech made by Alexei Mordashov of Severstal Group. Mordashov had elaborated on how important it was now to concentrate on using the newly-acquired membership to our benefit. Putin reminded Mordashov that there were the sectors of economy that longed for the WTO membership but also the ones that were simply waiting for considerate decisions from the national leadership.
Economic Development Minister Herman Gref told journalists that President Bush sent Russia "a list of some new terms and some matters requiring talks all over again" several weeks ago. Some of the disputed points was successfully addressed at the Russian-American WTO membership talks in Geneva last Tuesday. "We remain optimistic and hope to complete the talks in the near future," Gref said. According to Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE), "the US intends to have Russia chair the G8 summit in July without WTO membership, and even without an accord on it with the principal partner."
IBS President Anatoly Karachinsky (he is the head of the educational reforms team within the RUIE) says that all participants of the meeting with the president perceived two major problems in the sphere of education: quality of education as such and availability. Karachinsky said that his companies hire 2,000 people a year. They would be hiring 4,000, were it not for the lack of supply in the personnel market. "We are back in the era of shortages," Karachinsky ruefully said. "We were short of goods and commodities once, but now we are short of personnel."
Where solutions to the first problem are concerned, private companies propose high professional standards and an independent ranking of colleges and universities. They also suggest establishment of the National Agency of professional qualification development. For the second problem, the business community suggests an emphasis on the system of educational loans. (The president in the meantime proposed another means. He said business leaders themselves should become tutors and teach the young what they themselves know.) Businesses also aspire for becoming founders too and participate in management of colleges and universities along with the state.
Debates became quite enlivened when those present turned to abolition of import duties on technological equipment. Putin said that a government resolution signed recently abolished duties on nearly 800 items for nine months. The business leaders liked the 800 figure but said that nine months isn't enough. Putin disagreed. "It takes nine months for a child to be born," he said. "Surely it's possible to sign a contract in that time."
Translated by A. Ignatkin