Sergey Sotnikov: ‘Banks are monopolising the market. Production industry is on the fringes’

Realnoe Vremya expert — about Western sanctions, import substitution, and the future of Russia

The task of import substitution was set after 2014, now we need a “debriefing," says Sergey Sotnikov, a transport expert with 20 years of experience, chairman of the committee on cargo transportation and logistics of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan. In his opinion, it is time for Russians to abandon the “dependent position” and take the issues of economic well-being and food security of the country into their own hands. In the author's column for Realnoe Vremya, the expert tells the readers about the illusory hopes for sanctions lifting, the need to strengthen work on import substitution and the revival of production at any cost.

“There is a real economic war going on: tug of war”

It's time to understand that war has been declared on us. Now there is a real economic war going on: tug of war. Sanctions under various pretexts have been introduced a long time ago and today's ones have been prepared in advance. Therefore, it is no longer so much about an economic war: the issue of preserving the state is on the agenda. You can't sit and do nothing.

The worst thing that can happen is to live with hands out. This is a dependent position: “Let's ask them nicely, give in, and they will give us something, open European markets.” This is a humiliating position. We have tried this for so many years: we used diplomatic language, expressed concern. Just because we hoped for common sense, that we would be heard. And they stretched to such an extent that the hot phase began.

I can't imagine such a situation that in July 1941 in the USSR they would say: “Maybe we'll wait, ask, and they'll come to an agreement up there? Maybe they will change their mind after all, treat us humanly?" Come on, are you serious?! Only power is respected.

“The guys with beautiful charts proved that they can't do anything”

The task of import substitution was set after 2014. Now we need a “debriefing”. And decisions must be tough: we are living in wartime. If one fails, patting on the back and saying, “Come on, try again” — there shouldn't be such a thing. The people who were responsible for this and have done nothing for so many years or engaged in the appearance of work, in my understanding, should make room for those who are now ready to show their professional qualities.

The guys with beautiful charts, who know only how to make presentations, tranquillise with foreign economic terms, proved that they can't do anything. They should leave. It is necessary to attract practitioners, those who have shown real results by their example. And it is very important not to slip into verbiage about “helping” businesses.

People need reference points. Tiktokers, bloggers, rappers in tattoos are those who are shown as heroes today. It got everyone so sick. What else has to happen for us to finally come to our senses? Let's show those who built their businesses from scratch, those who succeeded in their profession, those who honestly serve the country and its people.

Personally, I am angered by the phrase that Russia is a developing country. We have so many resources, minerals, so many talented people, competent specialists! Let's remember the 1930s. It was a really difficult hungry time. People were illiterate, 80 percent were peasants. But they invited specialists, trained people who went to work at factories. They built 10 thousand enterprises, some of which are still functioning. Fifteen years after the war, they already flew into space.

Why can't we take the positive experience that allowed our country to make sharp leaps and reformat it today? Because we were taught that everything is terrible in the USSR. This was inspired by those who are churning another fake and imposing suffocating sanctions against us. It is necessary to distinguish lies from truth.

“Are we really not able to produce our own engines?"

We have been saying for years that dependence on foreign suppliers is harmful! Our KAMAZ was made dependent on imports. Then what's good about this? Trucks have tripled in price over the past 6 years. “Russian” buses have also increased in price. Then people get surprised at the fare. This is an entire industry controlled by ministries. Didn't they see it? Couldn't predict what it would lead to?

We became dependent: we are on the hook of foreign manufacturers. It is necessary to get away from this dependence. Are we really not able to produce our own engines, brake pads, shock absorbers? What's supernatural about it? Where are our designers, engineers?

Or now everyone is talking about airplanes: “Oh, we don't have our own aircraft, they are supplying us with spare parts.” The same situation is in the automotive industry. I'm in favour of doing something. If we can't do it on our own, we need to attract and train specialists. We had it all! Maybe at first it will be a little worse in quality, but at least, we will try to produce our own.

Maybe we should start producing a Russian people's car. Why not? Now it is just unrealistic to buy a cheap car. How should pensioners go to their dachas? Even if you start producing the likeness of Oka again, but such “iron horse” will cost not 1-1,5 million rubles, but, for example, 300 thousand and will be available to people. And there will be demand for such cars, and new jobs. We can attract young enthusiasts, they will make it likeable. Remember how the Koreans and Chinese started in the automotive industry. Their first cars were terrible, but then they improved.

The question is about responsibility for the result. My position is the following: either we begin to turn our country into a truly independent, high-tech country, or we will succumb to the state of “developing” countries.

“Banks have monopolised the market”

Last year, our banks received 2,4 trillion rubles in profit. And this profit is growing from year to year. The banking sector began to accumulate huge funds from the real sector. Accordingly, credit institutions have the opportunity to go to other areas where they can earn. They are monopolising the market. The manufacturing sector is being on the fringes and is extremely dependent on banks.

The introduction of project financing in the construction sector actually became an impetus to increase the cost of housing construction. In other words, the banking sector, in fact, has taken over any direction. Wherever we go, we depend on banks everywhere. This is a pernicious situation.

If we want to start some kind of production, then expediency and the development of the country should be put at the forefront. In the meantime, in any project, whether it is state-owned or not, there is a bank. Look at the profit they get in the end! At the construction stage, before the launch and then for how many years this production has been working for the bank. But what does this credit institution do to make this or that plant work? Maybe it studies the market, trains specialists, works with people, risks something? No, they strictly control the receipt of funds and the availability of collaterals. And at any suitable moment they have the opportunity to take this company away.

Banks were always a service industry. They had the task of transferring money, tracking payments. But now they are the masters. These are no longer banks, but financial monsters. I know people who received loans, and then they had to work for these financial structures for many, many years. Now, opening some kind of production, an entrepreneur understands that he will be dependent on banks for 10 years. Any careless action and they will take this business away.

And we had such a thing in the field of cargo transportation: entrepreneurs took cars on lease, and then they were taken away from them. People hoped to develop their business, but were left with nothing. Those who have been in business for a long time simply have nowhere to go, so they have to carry their business. Young people, looking at how parents suffer, how they tremble before another loan: they doubt whether money will be enough, they do not want to become entrepreneurs. The younger generation runs anywhere, just to make easy money. Hence such a shortage of young personnel in the production sector.

“Businesses need clear guidelines”

Until domestic production is established, we will not have any development. Therefore, the key issue for businesses is not about support at all. Businesses need clear guidelines: in which direction we are moving, what will be the new rules of the game. One step forward, two steps back is no good. We need a clear understanding of how and at the expense of what the economy will develop. So that a lively dialogue with businesses is established and its aspirations are heard.

We should not sit and wait for everything to settle down. Some kind of movement is needed. To avoid the following: foreign companies leave our market, and we are sitting grieving: “What to do?" If unfriendly countries announce sanctions against us, then they are no longer partners. Then we should close the market for them and reorient ourselves.

Foreign companies have left, others will come in their place. In no case we should let them back in easily. If they want to return, let them first cover all the costs and ask us well, and we will still think about whether to meet them halfway, whether they will not create unfair competition.

If a niche is vacant, then it is necessary to replace it with domestic manufacturers. We need to initiate something within Russia: yes, at least to build a second Baikal–Amur Mainline. The main thing is that it should be some kind of good goal for the country. Or let's start building our own factory for the production of toothbrushes. At least there will be an understanding that we are engaged in some practical business. And we do it for the country, not for show. This is not some kind of nanotechnology, which took many billions and which cannot be seen or felt.

Today we urgently need to gather a new team of professionals, analysts. We need to form a new model of the country's development. The goal that we will strive for. And most importantly, we should not deviate from the plan, otherwise we will collapse, as the USSR once did. There is no other way.

Sergey Sotnikov

The author's opinion may not coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya.