Economic crisis will not end soon
RT: You’re in New York for the financial conference at the United Nations. What steps exactly is the international community taking to cooperate together in battling the crisis?
Aleksey Kudrin: We're at a UN conference devoted to combating the crisis, and the peculiarity of this conference is that many countries are discussing anti-crisis measures. What makes this conference unique is that many developing countries that were hit hardest by the crisis are taking part in these talks, so the main focus is on the problem of providing support to those countries. Well, all the measures that the G20 has taken to redraw the rules of the global economy, fiscal policy, financial market regulation, rating agency operation, audit, and risk accounting – all these measures are being discussed here as well.
Besides, the G20 has decided extra resources are required to support the poorest countries and determine the exact amount to be allocated: one trillion one hundred billion. From that amount, the IMF was supposed to receive 500 billion to provide the support. At the moment, the resources are being accumulated and even given out to needy countries. This aspect is under special control, because we are somewhat behind the schedule of providing financial support to struggling countries. This is the key topic on the agenda, although all other aspects, including market regulation, are discussed. The idea of a supranational government or economic council that will carry out the regulation is also discussed constantly. All these are the most topical issues on today's agenda.
RT: Russia has been calling for a new global financial architecture. What does that mean exactly?
A.K.: It means the creation of global rules for all of us to live by. This is the main subject of talks around the world. That means that many of our rules, such as rules of financial market development, were too nation-specific in the US, the UK, and in Europe, whereas the capital has long been a network of international ties. Businesses move from state to state, moving their capital with them, and we see capital moving constantly from one jurisdiction to another or even hiding sometimes in safe havens. The creation of common rules and norms will help us prevent similar crises in the future. That's what we have realized. What are those rules? What's the responsibility for not following them? Are they voluntary or mandatory? What are the sanctions? This is why President Medvedev in his London speech and I in my report here promote the notion of conventionality, which means the creation of agreements and conventions that everybody could follow and be responsible for fulfilling those rules. This aspect of creating relevant international law in this area is the focus now, and we are involved in this work as well.
RT: You have supported the dollar as the reserve currency and its rate immediately rose. Do you feel responsible as a man basically making the global financial weather?
A.K.: The thing is Russia is a member of the G8 and the G20 and BRIC. And this is a very respectable status. Such groups work out the rules. And usually, of course Russia is in the centre of creating such rules and such decisions. Our evaluations of the global crisis in Russia, the rules, have already been heard. Some of them have already been adopted, some have been proven correct. That is why our significance, our word, is becoming more and more significant. In this respect Russia will be listened to in the future. And it shows, because when we say something the market reacts to that. Well, of course, we have to behave very carefully since our responsibility grows as well.
RT: Now Russia keeps part of its international reserves in US bonds. How safe exactly is this investment considering that the United States’ financial ratings are falling?
A.K.: Russia keeps its currency resources in different currencies. And it constantly shapes a certain structure, a safe one. That is, if the dollar exchange falls, then the value of our assets will grow in other currencies. That is why creating such a structure is a professional job. And today we are not very concerned about the deposit. The structure will not change much in the coming years. And the situation on the world markets will not undergo significant changes, and also from the point of view of the significance of world economies. What is the main achievement, the main resource of the American economy? It is the people. It is quite a flexible industry and economy, quite modern, more modern than those of many countries. It generates income and taxes. These taxes will reimburse future loans – that is, current loans and credits. So if the US doesn’t disappear it will pay its debts. In this case, it is of course very important to see, when this significance in the American economy, in the world economy, will start to change. But this will happen very slowly. That’s why there will not be any significant changes of the world order in this area in the coming decades.
You know, of course there can already be some major changes. Will other countries be entering the future with their own currencies, will they be creating currency unions. But a currency union needs no less than ten years to be created – if it is a significant one. Remarkable or significant, that will join leading economies. That is why it is easy to speak of the next ten years – there won’t be any significant changes. That’s why these words also reflects Russia’s line that we do not mean that new currencies and new currency unions will be created right now. For that to happen, serious preparation has to be carried out, legislations and rules synchronized. And that requires time.
RT: How do you assess the way the American government has been handling the financial crisis?
A.K.: On the whole, I think the best minds are working on this program. That’s why, on the whole, I believe that the program is suitable. It has very many bold measures, probably we don’t understand all of them yet, but we understand that in such circumstances these measures are required.
RT: Today you have said that it is necessary to take quick measures in battling the financial crisis. What measures did you mean exactly?
A.K.: The first measure is fiscal support, firstly through a credit support of central banks. Everybody monitors the rates, the volume of credits. Today the central banks carry the lion’s share of the measures. Secondly, it's measures of fiscal politics, which the government provides with its budgets. So it's also an urgent measure. It takes three or four months. Finally, it’s supporting measures to other countries. It takes from three to six months. It means that a country applies to international financial organizations, or to leading countries. These requests are being examined and then some support or credits will be given. So all these measures I refer to are urgent ones. They take up to one year. All above this is a strategic level. Forming new rules of the world order, new rules for risk management, new regulation institutes. Supranational institutes are among them. All those are long term measures.
RT: How soon will the economic crisis end? What are your predictions? Because some analysts, mainly here, in the United States, are saying that an end is basically nowhere in sight.
A.K.: Today it's clear that the crisis is lingering. That means it will last for several years. It doesn't mean that in three months it will improve and in a year we will have a cloudless situation. We will be moving out of this crisis over several years. It means that we should live in a more moderate way in spending money, making investments. There will be fewer jobs than before the crisis for several years. We should consider our resources. In this case we can coordinate our support. For example, to support those people who will be searching for a job in the next two or three years or to support poor people we shouldn't take any reckless decisions. For example, to support a company which produces a product that doesn't make money. All this influences new decisions, which the government will take.
RT: Are there any contradictions between Russia and the United States in terms of working together in battling the crisis?
A.K.: I couldn't say that we have some essential differences. In the case of our anti-crisis programs it acts rather independently. We have close cooperation within the G8, the G20, and the IMF. But we will form some concrete measures in the future, when it comes to the details. Our government works adequately with the American government.
RT: Do you feel that the injections that the US Government has been making into its economy by basically printing money could negatively affect the world market?
A.K.: Yes, the scale of emission of the capital is unprecedented in all the history of the Federal Reserve System, and in this respect it is worrying. But in a short-term level it's reasonable. Everybody is discussing now how adequate it will be over a long term period. And the central banks think it can be possible, but you should always know when to quit the market. As far as you know that these measures will cause extra inflation, extra outlay. That’s the path everyone takes when trying to invent his own methods to battle the crisis. I’m not a person who knows everything. I can’t say that I understand everything. I can say that all these measures forced by the situation are adequate. But we should, in due time, anticipate a worsening of the situation and react in due course.
RT: Sir, my last question to you: what currency should people be keeping their savings in right now?
A.K.: I always said that it’s necessary to hold capital in several currencies. In Russia it should be in roubles as well. It should be kept in roubles, dollars, euros, spread for different needs. Then invested in bank deposits or converted into stocks in different currencies. That's my general formula.
RT: Russia’s Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin, thank you very much for your time with us today.