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The next World Economic Forum (WEF), scheduled to kick off in Davos, Switzerland on January 17, will exhibit significant changes in the global agenda. For the first time, China will play a leading role in this forum. Meanwhile, as for the United States, the administration of President-elect Donald Trump has decided to take a back seat and skip the forum. Russia’s position has also changed significantly, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Earlier Russia was considered attractive for investment as a growing economy, now it is mainly perceived as an "annoying nuisance", the newspaper said, adding "this time the participants of the Davos forum, apparently, do not care about Russia’s economic outlook or its strategy." According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the official WEF website has no publication dedicated whatsoever to Russia's economic development, or its contribution to global GDP. Nonetheless, it features a report calling for an end to overestimating the Russian threat in the hybrid wars.
Several experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, however, expect the forum to bring positive results for Russia. According to Delovaya Rossiya’s Vice President Tatyana Mineeva, Russia will continue to be represented "at a high level." According to her, "declared privatization program will inevitably attract foreign investment funds."
Many businesses see Russia’s considerable potential, according to Director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics Nikita Isaev. "The benefits are obvious - in times of crisis it is relatively cheap to set up production, and then boost output volume following surges during post-crisis upswings," the expert said.
Others, however, agree that mutual interest between Russia and WEF is fading. "The Davos Forum currently bears no great importance for Russia due to the sanctions against the country and its difficult relations with the West," leading analyst at Amarkets, Artem Deev, told the newspaper. "The forum’s role nowadays has decreased significantly; it is very weak in terms of attendance by world leaders. China’s leader is among the few who will attend the event. However, Russia is now more interested in the West due to the sweeping shift in US leadership and the coming change in Europe," Isaev added.
According to the newspaper, "it is becoming increasingly difficult for Russia to boast its economic situation, and it often has to answer uncomfortable geopolitical questions in the international arena, and all this deters Russia from participating in such events." "Competition is very high in Davos. However, Russia cannot ignore the forum completely, as it needs to lobby lifting sanctions against Russia," Market analyst Kirill Yakovenko of Moscow-based Alor Broker told the newspaper.
World powers are stepping up efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sunday’s International conference on the Middle East in Paris coincided with the meeting of representatives of Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Moscow. The most drastic attempts to get the peace process off the ground in recent years are intended to send a message to Israel and the US President-elect Donald Trump, who took a tough pro-Israel stance. Given that the first steps of a future US administration further contradict the efforts of Russia, France and other members of the international community, the solution to the Middle East crisis faces a new global schism, Kommersant said.
Israel believed the Paris conference was futile and dangerous event that would only move the sides of the conflict further away from resolving it. The Israeli boycott sharply diminished the conference’s value, however, the Israeli leadership, apparently, will not succeed in simply brushing it aside.
First, the event in the French capital demonstrated the international consensus in favor of speeding up efforts to implement the UN General Assembly’s resolution adopted 70 years ago. Second, the new Russian initiative to hold an informal meeting between representative of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Fatah and Hamas signifies an increase of international efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state.
However, in the near future Israel expects to get a boost in their dispute with the Palestinians from US President-elect Donald Trump. The incoming chief executive plans to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would be a major blow to plans to create an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
According to the newspaper, given that the first steps and appointments by Donald Trump run counter to the efforts of Russia, France and other members of the international community on the resuscitation of the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, the settlement to the Middle East threatens the world community with a new rift.
One week before Donald Trump's inauguration and the debate about his future policy is still raging. The issue of the sanctions against Russia is one of the main topics of discussion, and the question of whether the new President will adjust the policy course set by Barack Obama is high on the agenda. Even if Donald Trump dares to soften sanctions against Russia, it will be very difficult to actualize these intentions, Izvestia wrote.
Restrictions imposed on Moscow can be divided into two categories: those that were accepted by the Congress, and those that have been Obama’s personal initiative. Donald Trump can handle Obama’s personal legacy, it only needs his formal political will. However, getting Congress to rethink the sanctions policy is practically an impossible task.
"The fact that it is necessary to weigh everything in such cases. Judging by what's going on, Donald Trump will listen to his advisers. A lot will depend on meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin," First Deputy Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the State Duma (lower house) Svetlana Zhurova told the newspaper.
Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation Yuri Rogulev in an interview with Izvestia noted that after Trump takes the reigns in the Oval Office, the initiative on sanctions will be in his hands. Therefore, the new US president is quite capable of lifting the restrictions imposed by outgoing President Barack Obama. However, Trump cannot cancel Congress’ bills.
"We do not know yet what the real policy will be. Lifting sanctions will not exactly be Trump’s first step as a president. He will not use unilateral moves until some agreements are reached. The situation is very complex, and the Republican will not run head first into a brick wall. Technically, he is able to cancel only the sanctions imposed by Obama," Rogulev noted.
The sanctions policy is unlikely to change in the near future. So far, Donald Trump prefers to ignore the issue, even though Washington's sanctions policy is the main reason for the cooling of relations between Russia and the United States.
The Russian Central Bank has beefed up its fight against loan shark companies that illegally issued consumer loans at rates of about 900% per annum under the guise of microfinance institutions. By introducing new methods of detecting such organizations, in 2016 the regulator reported 1,600 illegal microfinance institutions, that is loan sharks, which is four times more than in 2015, Izvestia wrote.
"In 2015, the Central Bank and its regional offices reported 431 illegal creditors. In 2016, 300-400 reports were sent every quarter," the press service of the regulator told Izvestia. In total, last year, the Central Bank reported 1,600 loan sharks to the prosecutor's office, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Antimonopoly Service.
According to the newspaper, if legal microfinance companies give microloans at the rate of about 600% per annum and use legal methods of recovery, the lending rates of loan sharking companies approach 1,000%, their recovery methods are liable for criminal prosecution.
In August 2016, the Central Bank announced the preparation of a draft law that would increase responsibility for illegal microfinance activities. In particular, it included increasing administrative fines, as well as introducing criminal liability for individuals with multiple violations.
Russian environmentalists are looking to form a coalition against the construction of waste incineration plants, which sparked a priority project "Chistaya Strana" ("Clean Country"). Leader of EKA movement Tatyana Chestina told Kommersant that according to the document the only way proposed to reduce waste was by using incineration plants.
The construction of five incineration plants: four in the Moscow region and one in the Russian Region of Tatarstan was approved by the Government on December 21. According to Coordinator of Greenpeace Russia Alexander Ivannikov, the document contradicts public policy on waste management: "Under the federal law, burning waste is referred to as one of the least preferred methods." However, according to environmentalists, the document does not provide other methods of waste disposal.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment told Kommersant that recycling is prioritized among the considered methods of waste disposal, but incineration would "reduce refuse by 7% across the country."
"Thermal treatment does not run counter to legislation on waste, and achieves the expected results, as we can see by the example of the Western European countries, Japan and the United States," Deputy Director of the Department for State Policy and Regulation in the sphere of Environment Protection within the Natural Resources Ministry, Olga Tagilova, told the newspaper. Decisions by the authorities of Moscow and the Moscow region, as well as Tatarstan were also taken into account in forming the project.
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