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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Net private capital inflow in Russia to exceed $15bln in 2007

MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) - Net inflow of private capital in Russia will exceed the projected level of $15 billion in 2007, a senior Central Bank official said Wednesday. CBR First Deputy Chairman Alexei Ulyukayev said net private capital inflow totaled $41.6 billion in 2006. "We may not reach $41.6 billion in 2007, but the level will be higher than the $15-bln figure established by the monetary policy guidelines," Ulyukayev said. The Central Bank official said the high capital inflow figure for 2006 was attributable to the liberalization of foreign exchange regulation in Russia. Ulyukayev also said the planned share issues by electricity monopoly Unified Energy System (UES), retail savings bank Sberbank, and foreign trade bank Vneshtorgbank could prove major targets for private capital investment in 2007.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In Russia, the New Year's holiday becomes a long winter's nap

// Extended break brings on malaise
January 8, 2007 – International Herald Tribune - by Steven Lee Myers - MOSCOW: New Year's has long been the favored holiday here, celebrated with Champagne and fireworks and gifts under the Christmas tree. Then there was Jan. 2, also traditionally a holiday. Now there is the 3rd and the 4th and the 5th. There was not, in fact, to be another official workday this year until Tuesday, a protracted holiday break that began eight days ago. It seems like a deep breath, a really deep breath, before plunging into 2007. Russia has more or less shut down, the government having ceased all but essential functions. The occasion last year prompted a senior official of the upper house of Parliament, Ivan Grachev, to declare, "The less they work, the better it is for the country." President Vladimir Putin made his traditional New Year's greeting on Jan. 1 — an address Boris Yeltsin made famous in the first moments of 2000 by resigning and appointing Putin — and then he disappeared until early Sunday morning, when he attended Orthodox Christmas services at the New Jerusalem Monastery in Istra, a town west of Moscow. There have been no newspapers published since Dec. 29, the last workday of 2006, while most television networks have drastically pared back news programs in favor of treacly variety shows and movies, among them, all three parts of "The Lord of the Rings." Some factories have cut production or halted it altogether. FedEx does not deliver. Gazprom, the state energy giant, struck a two-minutes-to-midnight deal with Belarus on New Year's Eve to supply natural gas, then canceled plans to hold a New Year's Day news conference to explain it. Other countries have long holidays, at least unofficially. August in Europe comes to mind. Russia's, though, is exceptional and, in a way, a mirror of the country it has become: confident, indulgent and unforgiving. Since the January holidays, as they are called, came into being with the arrival of 2005, sociologists, psychologists and economists have chronicled what they call disturbing consequences of an extended period of leisure. They include an economic slowdown and seasonal spikes in fires, domestic abuse and deaths by alcohol poisoning. "The number of crimes committed during these 10 days increases dramatically," the newspaper Izvestia warned in December. "The country plunges into an unrestrained binge." Here in Moscow, officials have reported more fires than normal so far this year, but a drop in reported crimes. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Emergency Services, reached at home, noted that there were not yet hard statistics since, of course, no one was in the office to collect them. Sergei Klyuchnikov, a psychologist in Moscow, said that his experience with patients proved "the negative effect on people" the holiday has had. He, like others, noted that most Russian cities, even Moscow, offered very little for people to do, at least inexpensively, especially in winter. The old Soviet department store GUM, unrecognizable from its former days of empty shelves, opened a skating rink on Red Square, for example, but it charged an entrance fee — $11.50 during the day, $19 in the evenings — that is expensive for most Russians. "After three or four days of holidays, they run out of money," said Klyuchnikov, an author whose recent self-help books include "In Search of Silence" and a title unthinkable in Soviet times, "Money in Your Life." "The problems start after that." Inevitably, perhaps, the holiday has become another measure of the widening gap between rich and poor in Russia, one that at times can be jarring. On New Year's Eve, the British pop singer George Michael flew into Moscow to perform an hourlong concert at a party reportedly given by Vladimir Potanin, the metals and media tycoon. Michael's agency, Connie Filippello Publicity, said in a statement that he earned $3 million for the performance, adding that that made him "the highest- paid entertainer in modern Russian history" but declining to identify who hired him. A man who answered the phone at Potanin's company, Interros — the call having been rerouted to his cellphone — would neither confirm nor deny the reports. He added that no one could until, of course, after the holidays. Indeed, for many the holidays have become a popular time to escape the Russian winter, making it hard to reach anybody. The richest Russians have turned resorts like Courchevel, France, into teeming hubs of Russian wealth. Even those whose fortunes are more modest flock to less expensive places like Egypt and Thailand, charter flights and tour packages having come within the grasp of a growing middle class that not long ago could only dream of foreign travel. Others stay closer to home. Malls, like the glistening new European Shopping Center next to Kiev Station, are full these days, as are cinemas, museums and theaters (though fortunately Moscow's notorious traffic has disappeared). Consumer spending is skyrocketing, part of the energy-fueled boom that is trickling down, albeit unevenly. Still, it's hard to shop for 10 days. The holiday on Sunday officially recognizes what became an unofficial practice after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the state resumed official celebrations of the Russian Orthodox Christmas, Jan. 7, which is observed far more solemnly than the commercialized Christmas celebrations of the West. Since Jan. 1 and 2 were already official holidays, few bothered to work in the days in between. Jan. 7 was a Sunday this year, so the end of the official holidays was pushed back to Jan. 8. Unofficially, many keep celebrating to the "old new year" under the Julian calendar, Jan. 14. "Call me after the 15th," Andrei Lugovoi, a businessman and former KGB agent at the center of the investigation into the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London, said when reached on Friday and asked about the status of the case. "We expect nothing to happen until after the 15th."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Vladimir Putin in the Top Three

Dec. 29, 2006 - Kommersant by Mikhail Zygar - // On the list of the world's least popular leader
Harris international pollsters have completed a survey of citizens of the United States and the European Union on world leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was chosen the best leader by a majority. U.S. President George W. Bush came in last. He was followed by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Satellite television channel France 24 commissioned Harris to conduct a yearend poll. Residents of Great Britain, the U.S., France, Italy, Spain and Germany took part. There were 2000 respondents from each country who were chosen by sex, age, race and social status. They were asked to identify the most important event of the year, to express their opinions of world leaders and to address various international problems. The most important event of the year for those Westerners was the war in Lebanon between Israel and Hezbollah. That event was listed first by the most French (22%), Italians (18%) and Spanish (20%). In Germany and Britain, North Korea's appearance among the nuclear powers rated first (20% and 19%, respectively). In the U.S., 27 percent of respondents named the Democratic defeat of the Republicans in the congressional elections the event of the year, although nearly as many indicated the nuclear tests in North Korea. The murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya ranked tenth place (from 5% in Italy to 1% in the U.S.). The rating of world leaders was a surprise. Angela Merkel topped the list, finding favor among Italians (61%), Spaniards (60%), French (57%) and Germans (51%). Her negative rating was miniscule. The world's worst politician, according to the poll's findings, was George W. Bush. Antipathy toward him ranged from 56 percent in the U.S. to 87 percent in France and Germany and 88 percent in Spain. He was followed by the president of Iran, whose popularity in the U.S. was 6 percent. It was even lower in Europe. Putin, the third least popular politician in the poll, does have supporters in the West. They were most common in Germany (21%) and, oddly, the U.S. (18%). In all of the countries in the poll except the U.S., many more respondents dislike Putin than Ahmadinejad. In France, 73% of respondents dislike Putin (as compared to 60% who dislike Ahmadinejad), in Britain 60% (with 53% against Ahmadinejad) and in Spain 80% (with 70% against Ahmadinejad). While Putin has more supporters in the West than Bush, he trails behind such leaders as Hugo Chavez (except among the Spanish) and Fidel Castro (except among the Spanish and Americans). All respondents were asked about the Iranian crisis, the war in Iraq and the sentencing of Saddam Hussein. The majority of residents of every country thought that Hussein should be hanged, that foreign forces should be withdrawn from Iraq and that the Iranian nuclear crisis should be resolved exclusively through diplomatic means. The pollsters determined that the margin of error in their work was 1.5 percent.

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