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I have long wanted to comment on the investment climate, which was discussed at the meeting of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with the international railway elite, representatives of financial institutions and investment banks in the framework of the Forum 1520.

Our industry is highly dependent on investment: OAO RZhD places securities on European financial markets, and we do everything we can to support these efforts. But what do we face in real life? There is the objective assessment of the investment climate, made by the President, which runs — “look at yourselves in the mirror.”

There is another, which is based on the various rankings and estimates by investment consultants. At the thematic conference in Scotland, it was stated that in the past year, private investors put Russia on the 10th place below Africa in terms of investment attractiveness! There is a rhetorical question: looking at the events now taking place in Africa, does anyone have any doubts as to how high should Russia rank and how high should Africa?

For me personally, it is true that the ranking methodology is not totally objective, but sometimes it is just biased. World Bank’s President Robert Zoellick recently added more fuel to the fire, at the IFC conference in Washington, DC, [when he] just went and compared the investment climate in Russia and North Korea. Despite the obvious bias of the statement by such an important official, there was no reaction from the Russian financial authorities.

The image of Russia is peculiarly influenced by international consultants. For example, when placing Gazprom bonds, the investment underwriter banks officially notified the potential investors on the low expertise and corruption of Russian courts. This footnote was included in the investment memorandum, signed by the issuer. RZhD has also faced similar situations, so it is common practice, and it must be countered.

We ourselves should in some way reverse the psychology of foreign investors in regard to what is happening in Russia. There is a small but important issue that must be addressed by every company. Of course, those who do it themselves should be transparent and understandable to them [investors], otherwise no one will talk to them. Knowledge raises trust, and investors react to our actions with investments.

Speaking of the improvement of the investment climate in general, one should think about this: who today represents the Government of Russia in this interaction. Obviously, it is the representatives of our business elite. The ex-presidential adviser for [US] national security Zbignew Brzezinski expressed himself very sharply on this point. I quote him precisely: “Since $500 billion owned by Russia’s so-called elite is held in our banks, you should first understand whose elite it is!” Brzezinski has never been our friend, but rather the opposite, but you should seriously think over these words… How reasonable can bethe calls to invest in the Russian economy from businessmen who prefer to keep their money in a different country?

This said, we also have a noticeable stratum of very wealthy people who not only earn but also invest in Russia. It is they, together with their foreign business partners in our country, who should be used to promote a positive image of Russia. You can’t make money on eggs alone, even if it’s Faberge eggs!

By the way, with reference to personal experience, I can say that considerable contribution to the perception of Russia abroad is made by ordinary people who come there for business, on holidays, to visit friends. In order to make a good impression, one should at least be able to behave and know a bit of tradition and culture of the host country.


— Vladimir Yakunin, June 10, 2011, personal blog


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