During a panel discussion, entitled “Strategies of cities and regions: Designing a Digital Future”, the experts discussed strategic directions for development of municipalities in Russia. Almost all the speakers pointed out that Russia’s cities have to take steps towards consolidating to form metropolitan areas [agglomerations].
And yet T. Polidi, Executive Director, IUE, who was slated to speak last at the event, challenged the arguments made by previous speakers, leaving them ‘in tatters’, by presenting lucid examples of consolidation. “Elaboration of another document, strategy, land-use planning layout of an agglomeration would neither help solve the problem of management nor safeguard the interests of every municipality. The problem is that we have few figures. So, we are discussing the subject without having an idea about the underlying nature of the problem. I will give some figures now, - said she. There is, for example, a deep-seated myth that agglomerations play a significant role in the economy of Russia. But if so, we would have switched, long ago, from the macroeconomic model to the innovative one, and would not have relied on resource markets. We have studied 45 agglomerations with a population of over 300 thousand people. Their total contribution to the national GDP made up 44 percent, whereas the share of population living there reached 46 of the total. Thus, we find no reason to claim that agglomerations are taking the leading role. It could well be that in agglomerations the resources are being distributed more uniformly.”
According to her, after the 2014’ recession spawned by the decline in oil prices and the imposition of sanctions, the economies of agglomerations also started to decline, often at a faster rate than the national average. “We assessed the structure of the agglomerations’ economies and identified three groups. The first group, with only 11 agglomerations, form developed urban economies with a high potential for shifts in their structure. It’s better to get out of the way. But what about the ‘lagging’ group of agglomerations’ economies where 30 percent of the total production output comes from outdated and uncompetitive industries. How to bolster innovation there? It is, as yet, unclear. The focus of the national policy is on strengthening the role of the state sector in the economy, which impedes the restructuring of the economy,” she concluded.
All the municipalities must submit their development strategies before January 1, 2019.