Putin Acts to Calm Investors
Published: May 24, 2014 (Issue # 1812)
President Vladimir Putin attempted to reassure global business leaders — jittery over the US-led sanctions campaign against Russia — to stay in the country as he met with them at St. Petersburg International Economic Forum Friday.
"Think of the benefits of working in Russia, don't give in to pressure and blackmail, and we will help you," Putin said at the 18th annual gathering, which saw a severely diminished showing by U.S. executives. Many of these ducked the forum at the request of Barack Obama's administration, which is intent on punish the Kremlin for its alleged meddling in the Ukraine conflict.
Putin, acknowledging that Russia's economic growth can no longer be driven by energy exports, outlined his strategy for the structural reform of the economy on Friday, focusing on massive infrastructure projects, the enhancement of human capital and financial and regulatory support of business by the state.
He has also answered the question on many minds in the run-up to the Ukrainian presidential elections this Sunday, hinting that he would recognize the new leadership in Kiev if it halts military action in Ukraine's maverick pro-Russian eastern provinces.
Lambasting the West, and primarily the United States, for disrespecting Russia's interests and snubbing Moscow's attempts to engage in dialog was another leitmotiv of Putin's 40-minute speech and the hour-long question and answer session that followed it.
Putin also downplayed the effect of the economic sanctions on Russia's economy, saying they target mainly his personal friends, and these had been shrewd enough businessmen to transfer their assets home in good time.
The Kremlin's plan to revive the Russian economy, as presented by Putin Friday, sees non-energy exports growing by six percent each year, substitution of imported goods with domestic products, stimulating investment into modernization projects, improving professional education and easing labor market mobility.
"I will also send to parliament a package of bills aiming to ease procedures for registration of companies, getting licenses, customs procedures — all initially expected to pass in 2018 — by the end of this year," Putin said.
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