SPIEF 2019: attendance record, discussion about national projects and Tatarstan’s appetites for trillions

First results of “Russian Davos”

The 23d St. Petersburg International Economic Forum ended on 8 June. Its main part — signing of agreements, plenary session, panel discussions with main guests — took place in the first two days. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya, who worked at the forum, sums up the preliminary results of the leading business event of the country.

In pursuit of records

Every year, SPIEF gains momentum and breaks its own records. This time, more than 1,500 sessions on 173 topics were held under the arches of Expoforum convention and exhibition centre in the suburbs of the Northern capital, in which more than 6,000 speakers participated. 150 business zones and 30 conference halls operated for the guests, 120,000 square metres of space were involved. According to preliminary estimates, 3 billion rubles were spent on the event, two-thirds of this amount fell on the shoulders of partners and participating companies.

Hundreds of enterprises, associations, government agencies, regions of Russia established thematic stands at the forum. Tatarstan once again presented its “corner” with a platform for signing agreements, a large screen, three meeting rooms, a coffee zone and a “utility room”. For the first time, Bashkortostan also exhibited its stand: its facade was decorated with stylized oil pumping and a pyramid of jars with Bashkir honey. Let us remind that last year, officials from Ufa promised to represent in 2019 their regional exhibition composition — and they kept their word.

Last year, 593 agreements worth 2,625 trillion rubles were signed at SPIEF sites. This year's figures are expected to be even higher. About 5,000 journalists were covering the events of the forum. Concerning the number of participants, the results are still being summed up. According to some reports, their number can reach 20,000 people, and they represent almost 200 countries.

Among other things, the organizers prepared a rich cultural programme, which included the performances of Bi-2, Sergey Shnurov, Andrea Bocelli and Aida Garifullina, concerts by Denis Matsuev, Valery Gergiev, symphony orchestra from Italy. There were also exhibitions, receptions and creative evenings of people of art, participants attended ballet performances, musicals, circus performances. The sports programme of the forum included competitions in 12 sports: various races, matches in hockey, football, chess tournaments, squash, practical shooting, show jumping, golf, tennis, rally.

The president of the country expectedly became the most mentioned person. Photo: kremlin.ru / TASS

Leader by mentions

The speakers, as always, made loud statements, the media was filled with headlines like: “Kudrin proposes to include care about economy in KPI of security forces”, “Russian military to be sent in the CAR”, “A ‘digital’ ombudsman to appear in Russia”, “Perekrestok to sell food on credit”, “Sechin criticizes Elon Musk’s business”, “S-400 supply to Turkey to start in 2 months”, “Moscow-Saint Petersburg HSR can be expanded to Kazan”, “Putin called Zelensky a good actor”, etc.

It was the president of the country who expectedly became the most mentioned person. His statements about Ukraine and its new president, union with Belarus, Nord Stream 2 and others were instantly spread on the news. Deals, investment projects, and the production figures of companies, macroeconomic themes also aroused much attention.

National projects ask for fire

On Friday, representatives of the Russian elite discussed the implementation of Putin's national projects 2019-2024 in the framework of the business breakfast of Sberbank — this has become the loudest event of the discussion programme of the forum.

“How to achieve the goals without side effects and without loss of stability? Do reforms have to have painful consequences, or can they be carried out in a way that benefits the whole of society?” so Head of Sberbank Herman Gref formulated the topics for discussion before the ministers, governors, businessmen. As it turned out during the impromptu voting, about 80% of the participants do not believe that these national projects will contribute to the economic growth of the Russian Federation, and some of them allowed themselves to make quite bold statements by today’s standards.

According to a study by Gref's team, 88 per cent of Russian entrepreneurs find it difficult to do business in Russia today (30% — “very difficult”, 58% — “rather difficult”). Businessmen continue to complain about tax strangulation, administrative barriers and lack of personnel, companies are less willing to increase investment. Over the past 6 years, we have not grown much in labour productivity, Gref added, it is less than in the Czech Republic, Poland and even Kazakhstan.

According to a study by Gref's team, 88 per cent of Russian entrepreneurs find it difficult to do business in Russia today. Photo: tatarstan.ru

The position of “non-believers” in national projects was expressed by Head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin. In his opinion, the condition for achieving high growth rates should be “real reforms”. He criticized the situation in which the role of the state and state-owned companies is growing, and of private business — falling. The element of unpredictability is very disturbing for entrepreneurs (“they can jail for five years tomorrow”). Finally, there is still no law on investment activity, which should determine the mechanism for attracting private investment in national projects and create a system of incentives for investors.

In the final of his speech, Shokhin said about what almost every speaker later recalled — about the relations between business and law enforcement agencies. He had in mind, of course, the arrest of the founder of Baring Vostok Fund, Michael Calvey, whose case Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, Former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin the day before had called “a shock to the Russian economy”.

First Vice Prime Minister, Minister of Finance of the Russian Federation Anton Siluanov objected to Shokhin.

“There is still some nihilism in the actions of our businesses. Everything’s bad. Alexander Shokhin’s business has huge profits, profits are growing, the pace is maddening! Repik’s business is supermarginal! But everything’s bad!” he wondered.

Siluanov divided Russian business into three parts. The first — works in the old-fashioned way (“earned — withdrew abroad, offshore, it is more comforting”). The second — just waiting for benefits (“if you do not give benefits — we will not finance”). And there is, they say, the third business that works. On it, it is necessary to rely, the minister of finance considers.

Business Ombudsman Boris Titov, businessman Oleg Tinkov and other participants of the business breakfast, however, refused to identify themselves as optimists, and the discussion was summed up by Aleksey Kudrin, who said that he did not consider the implementation of national projects sufficient for a breakthrough. Although the execution of them, warned the head of the Accounts Chamber (first of all, of course, the governors sitting in the hall), his office will monitor harder than 6 years ago.

“But still I must say that the implementation of national projects will not lead to the achievement of the goals — poverty reduction, high-tech production, etc. Secondly, national projects will not lead to average global economic growth. They will increase the growth by 0,5%. Thirdly, the main thing — to solve the problem with judicial power and law enforcement agencies,” Kudrin declared.

Pushilin commented on the initiative of the Ukrainian deputies to confiscate the property of those residents of the republic who will obtain a Russian passport. Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin


The intrigue surrounding Michael Calvey, who is still under house arrest, lasted until the middle of the forum. Earlier, Press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov said that the Kremlin would like to see the businessman at the SPIEF. The miracle did not happen, but Vladimir Putin spoke about the absence of Calvey, noting at the plenary session that law enforcement agencies should investigate his case.

A delegation from the Donetsk People's Republic (DNR) came to SPIEF for the first time; the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya managed to talk to the head of the DPR Denis Pushilin and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognized republic Natalia Nikonorova. In particular, Pushilin commented on the initiative of Ukrainian deputies to confiscate property from those residents of the republic who will obtain a Russian passport. Nikonorova expressed the desire to attract foreign investment in the DNR.

“We are acquiring useful contacts — those who next year may be our signer for future relations. We understand that we have reached the level when we can attract foreign investment. Previously, we had certain chaos in the legislation that could not give guarantees to investors. Today we are already quite wealthy as a state and can attract investments and conclude contractual relations. And I'm not just talking about Russia: we have contacts with European people that have been established before the forum. I hope, now they will be strengthened,” the head of the DPR foreign ministry told.

As for the “recognized” states, the leaders of Bulgaria, Slovakia, Armenia, Moldova and the UN Secretary General arrived at the forum. Special attention was paid to Chinese President Xi Jinping. It should be noted that several sessions of the forum were devoted to China. The delegation from China was perhaps the largest. Let us remind, a year ago, special guests of the official part of the event were French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

One of the first guests of the “corner of Tatarstan” was Bashkir “bashlyk” Radiy Khabirov, who signed a kind of roadmap for the development of relations between the neighbouring regions. Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

Investment for Tatarstan at 5 trillion rubles

Meanwhile, Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov set an ambitious goal — the head of the region wants to attract investments for 5 trillion rubles. According to him, 48 investment projects have been prepared in the framework of the strategy of socio-economic development of the republic until 2030.

“We have worked with all industries and large companies on the tasks they have. The first is, of course, increasing oil production through new methods and technologies. The second is increasing processing. And the main thing is the development of petrochemistry,” he told about the nearest plans.

As already mentioned, Tatarstan's stand worked at the forum. The region presented the exposition of industrial companies, federal and regional investment sites. Dozens of agreements were signed there (26 were originally planned), negotiations were held with heads of regions, large companies and foreign diplomats.

The delegation included, of course, Head of Tatarstan Investment Development Agency Talia Minullina, as well as Deputy Prime Ministers Marat Akhmetov and Roman Shaykhutdinov, Minister of Industry and Trade Albert Karimov, Minister of Economy Farid Abdulganiev, Minister of Labour Elmira Zaripova, Minister of Culture Irada Ayupova and other officials. Former Minister of Communications and Mass Communications Nikolay Nikiforov was also there.

One of the first guests of the “corner of Tatarstan” was Bashkir “bashlyk” Radiy Khabirov, who signed a kind of roadmap for the development of relations between the neighbouring regions. Governor of Kaluga Oblast Anatoly Artamonov, Governor of Krasnoyarsk Krai Alexander Uss also concluded agreements with the Republic of Tatarstan.

Besides, Tatarstan signed a deal with Sberbank, Rosgeologia, Ozon companies (Internet Resheniya PLC), Yandex.Market, Magnit, MTS, Ericsson, Agency for Development of Professional Communities and Workers Young Professionals (WorldSkills Russia), Sibur Holding PJSC. Rustam Minnikhanov had negotiations with Minister President of Saxony Michael Kretchmer, CEO of Siemens AG Joseph (Joe) Kaeser, CEO of Google Meir Brand, Chairman of CNCEC Hegen Dai, and CEO of Saint-Gobain Rus PLC Antoine Peyrude.

Earlier, with the participation of Rustam Minnikhanov, the leaders of the holding concluded two deals and held talks with several foreign companies. The first meeting was held with the top managers of Siemens. Photo: tatarstan.ru

New contacts, previous partners

As for the development of oil refining and petrochemistry, Tatarstan President called TAIF Group a “really reliable partner”. Earlier, with the participation of Rustam Minnikhanov, the leaders of the holding concluded two deals and held talks with several foreign companies. The first meeting was held with the top managers of Siemens. The parties agreed to develop long-term plans of partnership until 2030, special attention will be paid to localization. The German company is implementing a project to build a power plant for Nizhnekamskneftekhim using advanced technologies.

The next meeting on the sidelines of 2019 SPIEF was held with the delegation of the US company General Electric — the companies discussed the prospects of application of technology in the field of petrochemistry and oil processing, the potential involvement of GE in projects in the energy sector (modernization of power plants in the framework of the DPM-2, and H-class gas turbines, the further application of which has already been successfully proven in the region). The healthcare sector has also not been left aside: the parties intend to increase the availability of high-tech medical care for the population of Tatarstan. According to Ron Pollett, the vice-president of GE, president and chief executive officer of GE Russia/CIS, this was facilitated by the projects planned by Tatarstan industrialists for the construction of medical centres in Nizhnekamsk and Kazan.

Then Director General of TAIF PSC Albert Shigabutdinov met with the heads of financial institutions J.P. Morgan (USA) and Deutsche Bank (Germany). According to Ashok Aram, the chief executive officer of Europe, Middle East and Africa at Deutsche Bank, the cooperation with the Tatarstan company is characterized by clarity and discipline in the implementation of obligations.

Closer to lunch, TAIF signed two major agreements — with the Japanese company Yokogawa Electric CIS and the French Schneider Electric. The first contract describes the main areas of joint work and fixes the prices for standard equipment manufactured by Yokogawa Corporation, taking into account discounts for TAIF Group enterprises.

“The agreement is of general nature and covers the entire range of services and solutions that we are ready to offer to TAIF Group,” said Takashi Nishijima, the chairman of the board of Yokogawa Electric Corporation. “We work in the oil and gas industry, and any new projects that will arise in Tatarstan we consider as further opportunities in terms of development.”

The deal with the French should develop long-term relations of the partners in the field of digital transformation at the enterprises of TAIF Group.

“The document deals in the digitalization of production at TAIF using latest technologies. We are proud to have developed a roadmap for the introduction of digital technologies in Tatarstan enterprises,” said President of Schneider Electric in Russia and CIS Johan Vanderplaetse.

In conclusion, Albert Shigabutdinov met with another long-time partner of TAIF Group — Director General of Linde Engineering Christian Bruch.

By Timur Rakhmatullin, Sergey Afanasyev
Analytics BashkortostanTatarstan