The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech in Nizhniy Novgorod – 16 February 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech, made in Nizhniy Novgorod in Russia on Wednesday 16th February 1994.


Mr Governor, Ladies and Gentlemen. May I say firstly how delighted I am to be here today. The very fact that I am here addressing an audience of Russian businessmen shows very clearly just how far economic reform has come, just a few years ago such a meeting would have been wholly unthinkable.

Of course trade is nothing new for Nizhniy Novgorod, as this magnificent trade fair building testifies, and today once again Nizhniy is at the forefront of trade within Russia. You are leading the way in pioneering the new economy and you have some impressive examples of economic reform at work. What Nizhniy does today all Russia may do tomorrow. I believe that Governor Nemtsov and his colleagues are right to be proud of their achievements here in Nizhniy.

From what I have seen here already, albeit in a very short visit, I know that I do not have to convince the businessmen of Nizhniy of the benefits of a swift move to a functioning free market economy. Here you know that it will give you the freedom to earn fair rewards for your work, but there are others who need to be persuaded.

The move to a market economy is complex, it is difficult and it does involve temporary hardship for many people, I do not believe anyone should deny that, and that is why explaining the benefits of the free market is not always easy. Explanations do not put food on the family table but I believe that earning a fair wage for a real job will. You, the new entrepreneurs, must help convince the doubters by your own individual success, it is your skills that will enable the country to use its vast potential in human and natural resources. It is your understanding of the market that will help attract inward investment, it is your success that will benefit yourselves and the Russian people as a whole with new products and with new markets.

We in the West support you and will continue to do so. And one way we can help is the British Know How Fund mentioned a few moments ago by the Governor. There are already a number of successful Know How Fund projects under way in Nizhniy Novgorod, projects to help train your bankers, to help privatise road haulage and to help privatise farms.

But putting companies in private ownership by itself is not enough, we need them to work together to sustain these new enterprises and to make the most of new opportunities, and to help with this I have in a moment some new initiatives to announce.

Let me mention some of the initiatives. First, we propose to establish a technical assistance centre through which to channel assistance and help enterprise reorganise on free market lines, it will be set up by British consultants working with Russian personnel and it will also help to attract new investment to the region. Second, in partnership with the international finance corporation we have chosen Nizhniy Novgorod as one of four areas where we have decided to help create secondary markets to enable enterprise to raise domestic investment. The scheme will support the training of brokers and dealers and give people the freedom to trade with their shares. Thirdly, we are developing a retaining programme to help people develop new skills in catering, the retail trade and marketing, we intend to give people a better stake in the reform process.

We have other schemes in mind as well and this kind of support is just part of a wider picture. But another greater part is to ensure that you have the opportunity to trade with the rest of the world and to do so on equal terms. The United Kingdom has long argued for the removal of trade barriers, we shall continue to work to open European and world markets.

I do under-estimate the difficulties ahead as Russia reform, but neither do I under-estimate Russia’s potential and the skills and enterprise of the Russian people. I am as keen as you to see that potential realised, realising that potential is in all our interests, it is why Russia looks outwards for opportunity, investment and partnership.

I believe that is is in everyone’s interest that the West responds positively and helps Russia at this moment. It is in your interest that reform succeeds and it is in the West’s interest that reform succeeds.

I am delighted therefore to be here today and to play a small part in building that partnership between Russia and the West. Thank you for your hospitality.