Russia Open for New Investment Projects – Putin

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

DURBAN, March 27 (RIA Novosti) ­ President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday played up Russia’s potential as an investment destination as he tried to reassure investors at a summit of the world’s leading emerging market economies that the country was open for new business projects.

“Let me emphasize that Russia and its economy are open for new trade and investment projects. We maintained a trade surplus of $195 billion in 2012 and the unemployment rate is consistently falling. It has reached a historical low of 5.5 percent,” Putin said at a business breakfast for the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the countries that form the BRICS political organization.

The Russian government has achieved a predictable ruble exchange rate and predictable consumer price dynamics, Putin said. “The [Russian] government is conducting a responsible and prudent fiscal policy, while the level of state debt is one of the world’s lowest,” he added.

Putin has said on many occasions that measures to improve the business climate and eliminate administrative hurdles and corruption are at the top of the Russian government’s efforts to turn the country’s enormous investment potential into a real flow of foreign capital to boost Russia’s sluggish economic growth.

The president’s statement comes at a time when Russia is continuing to battle with its reputation as a chilly, if not hostile, investment climate, with reports from the past few years indicating that international business is still concerned by excessive bureaucracy and unclear property ownership in Russia.

Russia ranked just 120th on the World Bank’s Doing Business Index in 2011, and has since moved just eight places up to the 112th position.

The country needs investment, including foreign capital, to spur its flagging economy and diversify away from raw material exports, which make the country highly vulnerable to changes in global markets.

Putin said Russia had developed a set of measures to improve the country’s investment climate, but did not give more detail. He added that the country was also ready to boost cooperation in the space industry, science and the hi-tech sphere.

The president also praised Russia’s cooperation with the BRICS organization.

“In 2012, Russia’s commodity trade turnover with the BRICS countries reached a record $105 billion and this, of course, is not the limit,” Putin said.