Sberbank Forum Assembles Old Friends and New Problems

April 18, 2013


Personal memories mixed with hot discussions about the prospects of the global economy Thursday as high-profile visitors like former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. statesman Colin Powell gathered at an investment conference in Moscow to offer Russia new ways of economic development.

Participants in the annual Russia Forum organized by Sberbank discussed the possible paths Russia should follow to ensure economic stability amid market volatility worldwide and shaky oil prices.

Inefficient public governance was picked as the biggest challenge facing Russia now during an online vote at the first key panel session.

“Based on our history, people forced to choose between freedom and order will choose order. Everyone is afraid of revolution,” said German Gref, chief executive of Sberbank and host of the forum.

Other challenges discussed at the panel included underdeveloped institutions and political system, weak economic diversification, poor infrastructure and improving the quality of education.

The latter measure found staunch support from Powell, who said the education system should catch up with that of developed countries in order to be an effective driver of development.

In a deja vu moment, Powell – who served as United States Secretary of State between 2011 and 2005 – added color to the discussion when he recalled that one of the biggest economic issues he had to deal with was resolving a ban on U.S. imports imposed by Russian authorities.

A Vietnam-war veteran who was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the late 1980s, Powell drew applause from the hall full of investors and officials when he described his feelings about cooperation with Russia.