The humankind has reached unprecedented heights in its development. And in the light of that, persistently high inequality, uneven social and economic development and widespread poverty are phenomena that cannot be considered normal in the 21st century for both political and moral reasons. If we do not reverse the alarming trends in these areas, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development - and with it the standing of the entire UN system - will be compromised.
We are convinced that the main responsibility for eradicating inequality and poverty lies with the state. It is the state that should pursue an economic policy that would lead to eradication of inequality, as well as a social policy that would protect the poor and help them get out of poverty.
Is it possible to ensure equality through economic development? The answer to that is a resounding ‘yes’ - what is more, economic development is a key prerequisite for the eradication of inequality. It should be primarily accomplished through active stimulation of industrial and agricultural production achieved by creating favourable trade environment and by integrating small and medium-sized enterprises into value chains.
Implementation of large infrastructure projects so needed by our countries plays an important role in this regard. This measure enables us to boost entire sectors of the economy, create new jobs, develop the service industry and build new cities. One of such projects in Russia is the unique Crimean Bridge which will open to traffic tomorrow, May 16, ahead of schedule.
The Russian Federation set up a special National Welfare Fund which can be used to cover up to 10 per cent of the costs of priority projects. The launch of the Fund was made possible thanks to fiscal policy mechanisms and legislative measures implemented by the national Government. As a result, we were able to implement government programmes more effectively, achieve a better balance between the development of different regions of the country, address social problems and reduce income inequality among the population.
Uncontrolled and unregulated migration negatively affects the economy and social sphere of any state. We have first-hand knowledge of benefits and drawbacks of migration, since over 18 million people come to Russia every year. With a view to addressing migration issues the Government approved the State Migration Policy Conceptual Framework through to 2025 tailored to meet the demand for professionals with particular skill sets which exists in specific regions of our country. Provisions have been made for over $US570 million to be allocated to its implementation.
Development of digital economy affords ample opportunity to tackle inequality. With that end in view, annual allocations exceeding $US1.6 billion have been included in the budget of the Russian Federation. Digitization and launching new business models based on breakthrough technological solutions will allow our countries to gain a competitive edge. At the same time, access to the advantages offered by the digital economy will give millions of individual entrepreneurs a chance to earn a decent livelihood and enjoy a decent standard of living.
It is development of integration processes that should help the states in their fight against inequality. The first successes of the Eurasian Economic Union comprising Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are a case in point. A meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council which convened yesterday in Sochi noted a positive trend in the majority of key indicators throughout the Eurasian Economic Union. For instance, last year the average GDP growth amounted to 1.8 per cent, industrial output increased by 1.7 per cent, and agricultural output went up by 2.5 per cent. Aligning the Eurasian integration project with other initiatives, in particular with ‘One Belt, One Road’ vision, and forging the Greater Eurasian Economic Partnership will yield even greater results.
Russia stands ready to pursue equitable and mutually advantageous cooperation with all states and integration groupings. That being said, we are hardly likely to be able to progress on our path towards sustainable development unless we set in order the international relations system which is currently undergoing one of the most acute crises in modern history. Individual countries’ attempts to impose their will on others have a detrimental effect on the world economy, heighten financial risks, carry a threat of trade wars and can ultimately undermine our common efforts to overcome inequality.
The time has long since been ripe for everyone to understand that the world has ceased to be unipolar. There is no stopping the development of equitable international cooperation. There exists no alternative to trade liberalization and connectivity enhancement. The Asia-Pacific region, as the most dynamic hub of economic activity, is a prime example of such cooperation. In this context, ESCAP is becoming an increasingly more appealing collaboration platform where the majority of states share a common vision and aim to address common social and economic challenges, including those of tackling inequality, reducing poverty and progressing along the trajectory of sustainable development.