Russia and investment

With American venture capitalists looking over the Skolkovo innovation centre Business RT spoke with Yury Voicehovsky, Chairman, National Council for investment Climate Development, about Russia's investment potential.

RT:  How much can one trade mission actually achieve?

YV:  "The mission can achieve quite a lot.  After all, business is done not between companies, it is mainly done between people – and it's done face to face, and it's based on trust – and I believe visits like that could help a lot to improve relationships between people, between decision makers, and should lead eventually to some deals and joint ventures created."

RT:  So you don't see this as a one off event, you see this as quite an important event.

YV:  "I see this as an important event and should be as one of many events to follow.  I think visits like that should happen on a regular basis, and should happen at all levels, and should be also promoted at all levels."

RT: And how do you see the current perceived investment climate in Russia for foreign investors? Events like this must help?

YV:  "Of course they help.  The investment climate is a combination of risks and reward.  And from potential point of view Russia of course has a huge potential, and I think all investors see it – hence such a big interest in the representative delegation.  From a risk point of view, risks are very real, risks, and they are perceived risks, sometimes investors have difficulty even appraising risk because the subject is not well known to them.  And I believe visits like that and dialogue between business leaders, and as well as between politicians, help to reduce this perceived risk."

RT:  And to what extent does government involvement in business in Russia put off foreign investors?

YV:  "Again, we should talk about what kind of involvement.  Government should, could and is doing a lot to improve the climate, again supporting visits like that  is very important.  Government role should be to create a level playing field for all players.  Actually to help to reduce risk in any country, improve overall legal framework in a country.  So government's role is very very important."

"But I am sceptical about government involvement directly in companies, into investment.  So what I am saying is government's role should focus on an overall framework, which will create a basis for deals, which should be done by private businesses.  And from that angle government should try to decrease its role actually in the private sector, in the corporate sector, by privatizing some of its stakes, and excepting some strategic sectors. And our government has announced that  it is planning to privatize some stakes in some companies."

RT:  But do you think this privatization of state run assets, is it a move to attract investors to Russia, or is it just to generate cash for the state?

YV:  "I believe government understands what its role should be.  And so I believe there are many objectives, as well as the realisation that business will be run more effectively, if we want, by the private sector.  I think it will also help to reduce corruption, and also create a more transparent environment, and attractive environment for investments."

RT:  And how far do you think the government should go in privatization?

YV:  "I think, except some strategic, perhaps defence, sectors, everything else should be open for investments, for cooperation, and even global vote.  And Russia today, with all large economies, and trade also means further deals and business dialogue, and joint ownership of companies, creation of joint ventures, creation of joint business platforms, Russian companies investing abroad as well as foreign investors coming and investing in Russia."

RT:  How do you think the investment climate in Russia compares to other BRIC's at the moment?

YV:  "I think it is difficult to compare cuntry to country directly, because each country has its own strengths and weaknesses, I would say.  Russia definitely ranks, in my view, very very strongly on a potential – Russia has a very big potential, both as a market, as a source of many resources.  On the risk side I think that Russia can do quite a lot to improve the climate, reduce risks, and visits like we have seen today, definitely help."