I am not the kind of man who tends to plunge into illusion – Mikhail Prokhorov exclusively on RT
Apart from revealing his future career plans, in an exclusive interview with RT, the leader of the political party Right Cause has spoken about corruption, Russian dependence on energy resources and his ties with the Kremlin.
RT: Why does such a successful businessman like yourself want to get into politics?
Mikhail Prokhorov: You know, when you achieve personal success and when you know this country well, any normal person in my position would have a desire to do something for other people. There is a mechanism for that, and it is called politics. All people have to deal with politics when they go to polling stations. But there is also the job of a professional politician. And so, I have made a decision to become a professional politician to help the citizens of this country to live better.
RT: Let us talk about some of Russia’s biggest problems. It is thought corruption annually sucks nearly one third of GDP. According to some calculations, half of business spending is on kickbacks and bribes. As a representative of business, would you agree with these figures and what can be done to improve the situation?
MP: This is a well-known fact. These figures are unlikely to surprise anybody. I think that our main problem is that the old model has exhausted its potential for development. We should suggest a new model of political and economic development, a new ideology, a new everything. This new model should produce a new effect. I know how we should do that, and we are going to explain it to every Russian citizen in our party program in a very simple way.
RT: But does the Right Cause party have the resources to develop this new political model?
MP: I think that if an opportunity emerges to bring it home to our citizens what you deem necessary then this chance cannot be missed. The motto of ‘who else can do it but me’ is very urgent at the moment.
RT: Is it possible to do business in Russia without having close ties with those in power?
MP: You know, you need to have some kind of connections to do business in any country. Everything depends on the measure of these connections: to a greater or minor degree. Big business always has more ties and connections. We are like the rest of the world in this respect.
RT: Where would you put the level of corruption in Russia on a ten-point scale?
MP: The level of corruption is high and it permeates practically all spheres of life for our people. I think that we have inherited this corruption from the former USSR. It was more widespread at that time. In order to buy meat it was necessary to make friends with butchers. In order to buy nice clothes, it was necessary to have friendly ties with shop directors, etc. In the market economy this has become a thing of the past but a new kind of corruption has appeared. Everything linked to people’s daily life is corrupt. Everybody’s talking about that. We understand how we should tackle this problem.
RT: Russia’s economy is still deeply dependent on national resources and their export. Obviously, this is a dead end. Is an innovation-based economy possible in Russia and what needs to be done to build it?
MP: I think you should put this question a bit wider. What competitive advantages does this country have compared to other countries? We should develop them. Apart from our oil and gas sector, we are also a great transit power though we do not build roads, railroads or normal airports. But we can link together two parts of the globe like Europe and China. We have unique human resources which have been underused, and we are planning to focus our efforts exactly on the human potential.
RT: What is your take on Russia’s judicial system? Can it be called independent? And what is your opinion on Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s second criminal case?
MP: I think that our judicial system is imperfect just because of the mere fact that we don’t comply with the Constitution. Our Constitution has a provision about the administrative court but it has been shelved for 12 years. It is the administrative court that is supposed to defend our citizens. If a citizen does not like a directive issued by a bureaucrat he can turn to an administrative court for help. A bureaucrat, in turn, should prove that his directive is in line with the law. Today, a bureaucrat bears no responsibility. This is a problem to be tackled by an administrative court.
The second thing is linked to Khodorkovsky. The law is a law irrespective of whether it is good or bad. All of us are obliged to stick to this law. If there are faults in it, it is the task of a political party to suggest amendments. But even this imperfect law implies a procedure called early release on parole. I personally think that there are no grounds to deny Khodorkovsky and Lebedev their right to be released early on parole.
RT: The last ten years have seen the construction of a massive vertical line of power. Many of the regions’ privileges have been moved to Moscow. For example the election of regional governors was cancelled. In your opinion, does such a system meet modern demands?
MP: Only a system that can answer one simple question can be considered to match modern realities. A problem should be solved wherever it emerges. Our system of government does not meet those criteria at the moment.
RT: It is well-known that you have close ties both with the Kremlin and the government, but the Right Cause party can be considered opposition, even though you had asked others to forget this term. Nevertheless, the policies you want to put forward are different from those of the current political force.
MP: This is just a different model, a different vision. The United Russia party is a political monopoly, and we will be fighting all kinds of monopolies, whether political, natural, spiritual or economic. We are for competition.
RT: But do you think your own ideas may become a problem for your interests, having such close ties with those in power?
MP: I believe every development model comes from the inside. Correspondingly, this is my conviction, and therefore I will be proposing it.
RT: Do you see yourself running for president in the future?
MP: I am not the kind of person who tends to dream or plunge into illusions. We have particular goals – to get into Russia's lower house of parliament with the maximum number of votes. What I also understand is that I could be a good prime minister. If the party is successful I would fight for this position.
RT: On a totally different issue now, our audience is quite international. As the owner of the New Jersey Nets, can you shed some light on what awaits the team this year, any surprises maybe?
MP: The team will be consolidating. We have a clear plan, and we are not going to give up this plan that I have announced time and again, that within four years we will become champions.
RT: Another non-political question, about Yo-Mobile. It is reported there is already a five-year waiting list for this car.
MP: It is ten years already.
RT: Ten? This is a tremendous success, even though the car is not yet being produced and most people have not seen these cars in real life. Is there also interest from abroad and how do you evaluate Russia’s car market in general?
MP: I am only happy to see such great demand for the new Russian car. Our people want to see something new and Russian, so we must meet their expectations. As for Russia's automotive industry, I think it is now following the traditional way, trying to get quite modern Western makes into the country. Localization of any Western car broadens the gap by seven or eight years. This is why we chose a different way: make an entirely new car, based on a new concept. We need to be able to go ahead of time; that's the point of innovation, and that's what innovators take risks for.
RT: Is it possible to draw parallels between the Yo-Mobile and the Right Cause party? Do you expect the party to be as popular as this car among the people?
MP: I would not have gone into politics if I did not think so.
RT: Thank you very much.
MP: Thank you.