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The View from St Petersburg:Bill Savage

With business and economic leaders gathering for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum Business RT discussed with Bill Savage, Vice President for R&D at Intel, about President’s initiatives and gave his view on the Russian economy.

President Medvedev’s keynote speech at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum outlined his vision of Russian economic development, and discussed recent successes such as the successful IPOs of Yandex and Mail.ru.

Other topics include the development of a $10 billion state private equity fund a $30 billion asset sale. According to Medvedev, Russia’s Government will come up with particular figures and the list of the Companies involved in the near future.

“The government doesn't need such a large amount of property. The government has submitted its ideas for the schedule for privatization of major companies. The implementation of these plans is necessary but these plans are very modest. The government has until the first of August to adjust the scale of privatization in order to resolve this. I am sure we will be able to go through with the privatization in a modern, transparent way, in order to attract effective private investors and generate sufficient funds for the Russian budget.”

He noted that the Government in Russia should rather foster private business than act as an owner of the economy, with participation in international economic organizations a key part of that.

“Businessmen have a saying: markets are just like parachutes – they only work when they're open. And the case for Russia is that we will fall hard if our economy is not open. That’s why we will lower barriers for foreign investment and are looking forward to finalizing our membership of the WTO and OECD.”

With business and economic leaders gathering for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum Business RT spoke with Bill Savage, Vice President for R&D at Intel, about Russia and the global economy and its investment climate.

RT: What did you take away from the President’s speech?

BS: “I thought he was clear about his vision for the future of Russia, and in particular the areas Intel is interested in is the area of technology innovation. So, I think, those are opportunities for companies like Intel to participate in the modernization of Russia and that important economy.”

RT: Now given Russia’s role as a prime emerging market, a part of this BRIC group of countries, how would you say it’s important to stimulate development, and stimulate its technology sector?

BS: “Well it is an important large market, and growing faster than others in the world. So, I think, the importance is that it continues to grow, is useful for many companies like Intel, as we are looking for our products to be more adopted and for our growth to continue, and the opportunities are in places like Russia, Brazil and China, and others. So the ongoing growth of Russia is important. ”

RT: How essential do you think it is for a country to stimulate its own research and development?

BS: “I think, that’s a key part of the President’s vision for the future. The current dependence on resources, oil and gas, is not a way to have a long term economy, and that a long term sustained successful economy, based on technology, is a good vision for the future.”

RT: What other areas of investment do you think are right for Russia, and what other things do you see in the pipeline for the country?

BS: “Well, I think, the investments in information technology is an appropriate one, communication is another. Many of the things that the Companies where the President had asked to participate at Skolkovo, are things that are relevant.Companies like CISCO, Intel, Boeing all can contribute to this new economy that he sees in the future.”

RT: In terms of Skolkovo, what particular hopes do you have for that?

BS: “Participating with Universities at some places we are currently active, and we are looking at our investments in research, as other companies, that have been actually announced today. So, I think, doing research in Skolkovo under that umbrella programme will be a useful thing to Intel, as well as increasing our connections to Universities and future employees for our research and development in the country. We have a thousand employees in Russia today and 700 are software development engineers. So, those connections are important, since we’ve invested not only in the market of Russia, but also in development of what we can get from engineering. Connection with Skolkovo would be quite useful.”

RT: What’s your takeaway from the conference so far?

BS: “It’s been pretty interesting. I always enjoy the President’s speech and the vision for the future – that gives us good insight. The conference gives us the ability to meet with other partner companies in Russia, as well as multinationals from outside of Russia, and compare our approaches and learn from each other.”

RT: In terms of concrete steps that the President outlined in his speech, do you see those as being helpful in order to continue fostering economic success in Russia?

BS: “Yes, absolutely. I think, he gave some pretty bold areas about his vision, and changes needed. Some of them are very relevant to technology, but others relevant just to taking the country forward, as he talked about increased diligence around corruption – that’s good for the economy in all ways. So, I think those are all good steps. Some of them are very relevant to multinational businesses.”

RT: Do you think, if Russia eventually joins the WTO and continues to open its economy, do you see good potential for the country?

BS: “Absolutely. I think, there’s already good potential for a growing economy. And a more open growing economy gives potential not only for a worldwide participation, but, I think, a stronger Russia.”