By Catherine Belton, Charles Clover and Courtney Weaver in St Petersburg
Published: June 18 2010 12:11 | Last updated: June 18 2010 12:11
Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said Moscow was bidding to help lead efforts to build a new world economic order after the old system collapsed in the global financial crisis.
Opening Russia’s annual economic forum in St Petersburg where hundreds of global chief executives have flocked, Mr Medvedev said the renewed interest in Russia this year was a sign of a changing world in which the institutions of the western-dominated world order had had their day amid thousands of corporate defaults and the threat of sovereign defaults.
“What had seemed untouchable has collapsed. The bubbles that created the illusion of flourishing economies have burst,” Mr Medvedev said. “For Russia this situation is a challenge and an opportunity. We are living in a unique time. And we should use it to build a modern, flourishing and strong Russia … which will be a co-founder of the new world economic order and a full participant in the collective political leadership of the post-crisis world.”
Mr Medvedev insisted “Russia has changed” in the past year as it sought to pursue a course of “smart politics” that would leverage its competitive advantages in the raw materials sector, while shifting emphasis towards modernising the economy and focusing on boosting innovation over resources.
Acknowledging that the country still had a great deal to do to meet these aims, Mr Medvedev laid out a series of new initiatives that aim to boost its attractiveness as an investment destination. “Russia needs a real investment boom”, in order to achieve its modernisation goals, he said. To stimulate that, Mr Medvedev announced Moscow would introduce zero taxation on capital gains for companies working on long-term investments starting from January next year and said Russia was improving the legal system to provide better protection for businesses against the long arm of bureaucracy.
He added Russia had already simplified migration procedures to help attract “highly-qualified specialists” working in investment and high-tech sectors into the country.
Responding to criticism that Russia’s approach to building an innovation economy was driven from the top down and state interference could hinder development, Mr Medvedev said the state would concentrate its efforts on fostering a good business climate. “No matter how many state-owned companies we have, modernization will happen, above all, through private business. And only if there is competition,” he said. “The state should not tear down the apples from the tree of economics. What the government should do is help grow our apple orchard, develop our economic environment.”
Mr Medvedev said he was cutting the list of strategic enterprises five fold in order to reduce the role of the state in the economy and foster more private initiatives.