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Experts argue if Russia should get national funds back or switch countries of placement

August 13, 2014, 17:30 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© ITAR-TASS/Yevgeny Kurskov

MOSCOW, August 13. /ITAR-TASS/. State Duma members-sponsored bill on the withdrawal of Russia’s National Welfare Fund and Reserve Fund from the West has drawn objections from the expert community. All of the financial analysts polled by ITAR-TASS argue that it is ill-considered from the standpoint of keeping the assets safe for the country’s future generations.

Deputy chief of A Just Russia faction in the lower house of parliament Oleg Nilov has drafted amendments to Russia’s Budget Code prohibiting the placement of National Welfare Fund and Reserve Fund in the countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia and Russian individuals and businesses.

Nilov argues that in the current situation in Russia it will be far more important to put the financial muscle into the domestic economy, including agriculture, than to let the multi-billion investments support other countries, let alone those that exert pressure on Russia.

According to Russia’s Central Bank, the country’s international reserves on August 1, 2014 stood at $468.4 billion.

“The Western sanctions against Russia are measures that had been carefully considered well in advance. The gun is out of the holster and pointed at Russia. Retaliatory measures should not be as hasty as the current proposal for withdrawing national financial funds from the West. Retaliation must be consistent and prepared beforehand,” economist Yuri Boldyrev, a former deputy chief of the Accounts Chamber, told ITAR-TASS.

“On the other hand, Russia should not fuel the Western economies with its money at a time when the West has imposed anti-Russian sanctions. The National Welfare Fund and the Reserve Fund are the lifeline Russia may need in the future, and during a risky mountain climb you have to be sure the lifeline is in the hands of a friend, not an enemy,” Boldyrev said.

“Bearing in mind the high level of corruption in Russia, an in-depth analysis should be carried out without haste to see what way of placing the National Welfare Fund's money will be the most rational,” he added.

“If we really regard the national financial funds as savings stashed away for a rainy day, the issue is far more important than the question of prompt withdrawal of funds from the West for using them inside the country. I agree that the risk of National Welfare Fund cash assets invested into Western securities has soared with the Western sanctions. Why shouldn’t Russia then place these funds in Switzerland or in some Asian jurisdiction? Hong Kong, for instance?” the president of Vneshtorgbank’s observer council, Sergey Dubinin, told ITAR-TASS.

“If government members and State Duma members are really determined to build up investment in infrastructure and farming, then the concept of national financial funds is to undergo fundamental change. Theirs is a long-term role, so ways of keeping them safe, and not spending them right away should be the focus of attention.”

“The issue of recalling national funds’ assets from the West was raised back under former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, whom the British magazine The Banker and other Western financial institutions often described as the best finance minister in Europe. Kudrin then managed to beat back such initiatives. His chief argument was that cash assets invested in Western securities were reliably protected,” an adviser to the chief of the governmental Center of Analysis, Vladimir Averchev, told ITAR-TASS.

“If the yield on Russian funds invested in US securities looks too low (annualized one percent), then alternative investment opportunities should be explored,” the analyst said.

“As far as the alleged risks the national funds’ assets invested in the West are prone to, I would say this: these funds are kept not in banks, but in the securities of a number of Western countries, first and foremost, the United States. Putting these securities under arrest would be tantamount to undermining the entire world financial situation. No one will dare do that,” the analyst said.

Averchev also warns that the proposals for retrieving Russia’s national funds from the West and investing them domestically would be harmful for the economy’s development. Investment will be made in the short term, while the return can be expected only in several years’ time, if they can be expected at all. But if the government all of a sudden needs money for the Pension Fund, for eliminating the effects of natural calamities, there will be no money to go around. In the meantime, National Welfare Fund and Reserve Fund money can be retrieved from securities virtually within one day,” Averchev explains.

“A couple of days ago Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev came up with an idea of putting all National Welfare Fund assets into the Russian economy through long-term investment projects. Ulyukayev is a government minister responsible for economic growth, but there can be no growth without investments. The money of national funds are close at hand and there is a temptation of promptly investing them in the economy. But this is a short-sighted approach. When there is no source to turn to for cash, the money printing machine will be turned on and inflation will surge. No, such a scenario is no good,” the analyst said in conclusion.


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