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Khodorkovsky Release Is Nice, But Not Enough

Published: January 20, 2014 (Issue # 1793)


It does not matter what real crimes former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky may have committed as he rose to become the richest man in Russia at the end of the 1990s. The highly selective case against him remained an open wound in the country's investment reputation for an entire decade. Now that he has finally been released, can Russia expect a sharp change in global investor sentiment?

Unfortunately, for the country's business community, the short answer is no. Khodorkovksy's release is great news. It lifts a huge dark cloud from Russia's financial reputation. But in the end, his imprisonment was only a symptom of a much larger and pervasive economic disease. Russia has spent the last 10 years marching down an economically debilitating path, at odds with the values and ideals of the 21st century globalized environment. Although his release was positive news, it does not reverse the destructive path that it symbolized.

Not all is bad, though.

While President Vladimir Putin's announcement ending 10 years of personal acrimony was a complete surprise, it appears to mark a change toward realpolitik. The signs are increasingly hopeful that Russia is moving back toward a more pro-market phase. It has been clear for several years already that Russia's pre-crisis growth model is broken and that the missing component of gross domestic product growth is investment. Sure enough, the government, led largely by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, has made improving the investment climate a top priority.

How Khodorkovsky's Arrest Ruined Russia

The catch is that what investors despise more than anything else is being duped. Many agree that the government is today committed at least for now to its efforts to begin a new era, but investors will take a long time to forgive, forget and trust once more. Fresh in their memories are repeated instances of state-owned enterprises abusing their privileged positions to seize assets and market share, the rewriting of rules that define investment returns for long-term projects and arbitrary application of regulations and taxes all of which are underwritten by a pervasive environment of systemic corruption.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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