The Russia Forum 2009: restoring confidence – overcoming the crisis
The results are in for all three days of work at The Russia Forum 2009, which took place in Moscow between February 4th and 6th at the initiative of the Troika Dialog Group. The event was attended by approximately 900 guests and delegates representing 35 countries, as well as by more than 120 speakers – high ranking government officials, members of the investment and business communities, political scientists, economists and industry experts. The Forum comprised 20 panel discussions and plenary sessions, as well as more than 800 meetings in 1:1 format between companies and investors. The Forum was reported on by more than 300 journalists representing leading Russian and foreign media.
The success of The Russia Forum 2009 can be attributed to two factors: its “star lineup” and the unique format in which it took place. Only The Russia Forum 2009 managed to bring together on a single stage such respected names as Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business, Raghuram Rajan, Professor of Finances at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Nassim Taleb, Distinguished Professor, New York University Polytechnic Institute, Hernando de Soto, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy; Paul Wolfowitz, Ambassador, Visiting Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, previously President of the World Bank and U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Sir Tony Brenton, Former British Ambassador to Russia, UK Foreign Office, Sergei Karaganov, Chairman, Council of Foreign Defense Policy, as well as many other noteworthy guests.
More importantly, these renowned experts not only gave presentations, but exchanged opinions with fellow speakers and members of the auditorium. This is because the event organizers decided upon the panel discussion format, which allows business representatives, government officials, and professional investors to conduct equal and open discussion on the most pressing and divisive issues. According to the organizers, this kind of open discussion and intellectual exchange “without favoritism” is the quickest and most effective way to find lasting solutions.
The first day of The Russia Forum 2009 was devoted to major trends in macroeconomics and global politics, as well as to Russia’s role in these processes. The main panel discussions on the first day of the Forum – “Towards a New Financial Architecture: Beyond Blowing Bubbles,” “Challenges Facing Russia: Executive Perspectives,” and “Foreign Policy: Towards a New Security Architecture” – allowed participants to address problems in global economics and politics as well as suggest possible solutions.
The second day of the Forum was built around a more “applied” discussion program, with emphasis on problems and outlooks in Russia’s economy. The liveliest discussions took place in the sessions “Liquidity, Leverage, and Access to capital,” and “Ruble and Global Currencies: One Year Forward,” where attention was turned to bank bailouts and the Russian government’s monetary policy, as well as the increasing role of the government in solutions to financial sector problems.
The second day also included “industry” sessions, where discussions focused on the current situation and development outlooks in key segments of Russia’s economy – the oil and gas sector and the banking sector, electric power, retail, telecommunications, and others.
The third day of The Russia Forum 2009 was devoted to meetings in 1:1 format between companies and investors. Over 800 meetings took place on February 6th, and the event organizers received over 900 meeting requests.
“Crisis of trust” – this was the consensus description of the situation in the world today as well as the words heard most often during the sessions and in private conversations. The lack of trust has “frozen” the financial market, creating stagnation in the real economy followed by recession, not to mention all the recent skepticism regarding capitalism as a system. Former bedrocks of confidence – the biggest banks and international financial institutions, ratings agencies, analysts’ predictions, major reserve currencies and commodities – have been considerably undermined. In developing countries, the economic and social problems might lead to a crisis of trust in the political system, the discussion participants said.
The experts shared the opinion that confidence can be reinstated in the global economy by returning to the fundamental values of capitalism. The missing “tie with reality” in the global economy must be restored, and control over the financial system needs to become stricter and more centralized. In this context, participants in the Forum sessions spoke about the need for “collective leadership” and “less national egoism.” If these needs go unmet, the world can look forward to financial chaos, collapse in the global economic system, and a breakup between isolated regional markets.
As for Russia’s anti-crisis recipe, experts spoke about maintaining macroeconomic stability and structural reforms in the economic and political spheres. Even though Russia efficiently handled high commodity prices in recent years, the country “forgot” about structural reforms, the Forum participants said. Russia has a number of options to get out of the crisis, for example – developing infrastructure, perfecting legislature, and building an independent, effective court structure. Furthermore, diversifying the economy and developing the domestic market are the prerequisites to stability in the future.
The Russia Forum 2009, which Troika Dialog organized for the second consecutive year, confirmed the event’s elite standing as a meeting place for politicians and businessmen, directors of government establishments, representatives of leading Russian and international companies, as well as prominent investors and wealth managers. According to participants, further proof of The Russia Forum’s significance is the progress that was made in locating the sources of current problems and vectors of future action, which likely will shape the development of not only the financial system, but the entire economy in 2009.
We hope that The Russia Forum 2010 will create interest among an even greater number of speakers and top caliber participants, and that the event will touch upon a wider list of topics.