So billionaire oligarch Oleg Deripaska, in an interview published in a recent issue of Expert magazine (8 October 2012), which coincidentally happens to be owned by Deripaska through his holding company RAINKO, admits that the political and economic paradigm in the country, which has led to the current stagnation in Russia, can only be resolved with “100-150 trained, experienced managers, who are responsible, honest and loyal to the country.” They should hold key positions in state and private companies. He also says people should wake up and demonstrate that they have a conscience.
Is Mr Deripaska here counting himself among these individuals? It is hard to stay, given his recent decision to come to a rapid out-of-court settlement with former partner Mikhail Cherney, rather than have to give evidence in a London court, where he would have been under oath to tell the truth and come clean as to how he became a billionaire.
And there is the rub of the problem. It is all very well calling for the appearance of 100-150 honest managers, but the natural response is: what about you, Oleg? Have you been entirely honest in all your business dealings? For example, have you been fair and entirely honest in your dealings in insurance, where your minority partner has been under the cudgel for years?
Surely Oleg, you need to set an example? For example, come clean about all those shady deals from the past? You call for people to have a “conscience” in the article. When did your conscience awaken? Have you always treated all your staff with true respect? And do you now? Are you sharing out your wealth? Are your companies now paying a fair price for electricity?
The sad thing is that Deripaska is clearly one of the smarter oligarchs. He notes in the interview that Russia is in a pre-crisis situation that the authorities and business have created. Productivity levels are lower than elsewhere; similarly effective use of resources is far below what is required in a functioning economy and in a country such as Russia, which has such an educated and intelligent workforce and significant financial and natural resources. He also highlights the issue of the high rate of borrowing compared to Western competitors.
At the same time, he doesn’t identify the real reason for the high borrowing costs: if they are too low, oligarchs just send the money to offshores and invest elsewhere than Russia: if businesses are given loans in Russia both by Russian and foreign banks, when a crisis happens, then the oligarchs threaten to default on repayments, as incidentally Mr Deripaska’s companies did both with international consortia of banks (aka RusAl and Basic Element) and also in Russia -the shady dealings involving the banks that Deripaska owned before 1998 and the failure to repay money from his personal fortunes show that his conscience is somewhat limited.
So if Mr Deripaska wants to kickstart the economy, why doesn’t he personally train up thousands of managers as honest brokers, establish key performance indicators that will help to assess their appraisal, and most importantly come up sensible ways to overcoming corruption.
I would like to hear Mr Deripaska declare that he is opposed to all bribe-taking and corruption and would like to hear him tell Mr Vladimir Putin that now corruption has to be stopped at all levels and that Mr Putin is responsible.
Of course, only if Mr Deripaska is ready to be honest and show that he actually has a conscience…