Medvedev Informed Yushchenko about 2-Fold Surge in Gas Prices
Gas problem was one of the issues raised during St. Petersburg negotiations between Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters June 6. “Gas prices for Ukraine will nearly double starting from January 1, 2009,” Lavrov said, explaining that the states of Central Asia are shifting to the European prices for their gas. “The gas from those states passes Russia’s territory and the states of Central Asia account for a significant portion of Ukraine’s gas balance. Therefore, the gas price for Ukraine will surge materially under objective reasons from January 1,” Lavrov said. The sooner we shift to the market prices, the better will it be for recovery of the country’s economy, Yushchenko said when commenting on the imminent price growth.
Money Talks at Russian Forum as Business Leaders See Past Hurdles to Investing
The lineup told it all about Russia’s importance today. There, on one stage, sat the leaders of BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Total, Schlumberger and Dow Chemical, as well as the chairman of the Russian energy giant Gazprom and the president of the Russian oil company Lukoil. The busy executives of the global energy industry, by their very willingness to sit together at an economic conference here over the weekend, were sending a powerful message that big Western businesses were in Russia to stay. They may be worried about the weak rule of law, corruption and lack of an independent judiciary, as seen in recent troubles confronting BP and Shell with their Russian partners. But that is not likely to stop them from swarming around the honey pot for large contracts and access to the resources of Russia, one of the world’s largest energy exporters and fastest growing economies in an era of $130-a-barrel oil.
And while politicians in Western Europe fret over their own inability to develop a cohesive energy policy — and some fan fears of a newly resurgent, aggressive Russia — many of the sharpest minds who gathered here at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum seemed focused on something quite different: ensuring that Russians benefit from economic plenty this time, as opposed to the heady era of privatization in the 1990s, which benefited only a few. In a speech on Sunday that was keenly awaited by liberals in Russia’s business elite, a first deputy prime minister, Igor Shuvalov, listed the “many hurdles” on this path: an over-reliance on energy exports, a falling population, a lack of modern skills, an unhealthy way of life and a state apparatus with a tendency to meddle. “Russia should be a country that people want to live in,” Mr. Shuvalov said in remarks that seemed uncharacteristically self-deprecating for a top Russian official these days. Mr. Shuvalov’s audience filled less than half of the hall. It had been packed on Saturday when the new president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, took subtle aim at the United States, suggesting that the world might be in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and that a revived Russia could offer solutions to problems that have underscored America’s shortcomings. But the crowd on Sunday was rapt as Russian and Western business executives peered out to make projections on Russia’s state and standing in 2020. So much has changed, so fast, in the past decade here that there is little clarity on how to proceed. As one Russian participant, Alexander V. Izosimov of the cellphone operator VimpelCom, said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Jim O’Neill, who is the chief economist of Goldman Sachs — and credited with coining the phrase “BRIC countries” to describe Brazil, Russia, India and China becoming leaders among world economies — surprised the crowd by predicting a conservative overall average of 3.3 percent annual economic growth in Russia by 2020, down from growth around 8 percent now. Russia, Mr. O’Neill said, will have a 4 percent share of world’s gross domestic product then, compared with 2 percent now. But he said it would be weaker relative to Brazil, India and China because of far fewer people at work. India alone is expected to grow by 300 million people — twice Russia’s current population. Michael Klein, chairman and chief executive of the institutional clients group of Citigroup, was more ebullient: “The future will exceed by a big stretch the plans for 2020” — the Russian government’s target date for certain improvements. “Russia is clearly one of the most successful economic stories of the decade,” he said, and possibly “the first scale economy to sustainably avoid the resource curse,” the evils often brought by easy money from commodities like oil and natural gas. Anatoly B. Chubais, a former deputy prime minister despised by many Russians over the inequities of the 1990s privatization program he led, even broached a subject normally taboo: the moribund, regimented state of politics, which has crystallized around the Kremlin and Vladimir V. Putin, the prime minister and previous president (who this weekend left his protégé, Mr. Medvedev, to shine alone in their hometown).
Russia May Spend Twice As Much Now, Putin Said
The 2007 spending of federal budget doubled vs. 2004, having grown from 2.4 trillion ruble to nearly 6 trillion ruble in three years, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced Monday during the meeting of government’s presidium, RIA Novosti reported. “The spending of federal budget reached nearly 6 trillion ruble, but we could spend no more than 2.4 trillion ruble in 2004. It’s almost the double growth in actual terms,” Putin said. The costs for public health grew by over three fold during the period, the prime minister pointed out. The surge in federal budget spending was secured by favorable economic indicators of the country. Russia’s GDP soared over 8 percent in 2007, real income of the nation stepped up by over 10 percent, and the growth in tax and customs receipts was notable. “All that has created favorable environment for our budget policy, the policy targeted at long-term development of Russia’s economy, social upgrade and radical increase in quality and standards of living,” Putin said. The 2007 federal budget was the last budget of the country compiled for a year. Russia has shifted to fiscal three years starting from 2008, the prime minister reminded.
Russia’s Millionaires Number Grew 1.5 Fold in a Year
The official number of Russia’s millionaires grew over 1.5 fold during a year; the millionaires paid taxes for the total worth of 55 billion rubles, Interfax reported with reference to Federal Tax Service that released preliminary results of the tax return campaign. Russia has 131,000 dollar millionaires, the experts of Citi Private Bank and Knight Frank calculated earlier. Of interest is that the most skyrocketing growth of the wealth was reported in the section of Russia’s billionaires. The aggregate wealth of Forbes 100 billionaires of the country is nearly two fold above the budget receipts. The number of income tax returns that the individuals filed in 2007 to declare income of no less than 1 million rubles grew 67.8 percent on year, Federal Tax Service said. Some 3.2 million taxpayers (10.4 percent up on year) declared the 2007 income as of April 30. The amount of individual income tax due to the budget under the tax returns grew nearly two fold to 55 billion rubles. At the same time, the amount claimed by taxpayers from the budget increased 32 percent to 21.6 billion rubles. No secret that Russia’s oligarchs are the richest in Eastern Europe. According to the latest rating of Forbes, Oleg Deripaska ($28.6 billion) is the wealthiest in Russia, while Severstal owner Alexei Mordashov and Chukotka Governor and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich follow him in the list of billionaires.