Prior to the military conflict that touched off in 2011, Syria had been on track to becoming a country with income levels above the global average, Senior Advisor for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation in MENA countries at World Bank Group and former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs (2005-2011), Abdallah Al-Dardari, told RBC business daily. The road map laid out the blueprints for the country’s development implying that Syria was going to see this within 15 years from that time.
"I consider the frustration of those plans to be one of the biggest losses for Syria, which had an up-close opportunity to take a historical leap in economic development," Al-Dardari explained.
Compensating such a loss would likely take 50-60 years of daily efforts provided that economic growth rates doubled those of the pre-war period, the senior advisor told the newspaper. "As of today Syria’s GDP doesn’t exceed $24 bln. The UN’s Economic and Social Commission on Western Asia (ESCWA) has calculated one of potential scenarios for the country’s economic recovery: investments worth at least $200 bln are needed to bring GDP just to pre-war level ($60.2 bln). Though that would take at least ten years, if the war ended right now," he stressed.
According to Al-Dardari, currently the international Syrian talks have practically disregarded the issue of economic recovery. The Geneva-based negotiations are mainly focused on three areas - the future constitution, transitional government and elections. Economic issues will only be raised after those three problems are solved. However, the former Syrian deputy prime minister says, it may turn out to be even more challenging to reach agreements on the country’s post-civil war recovery than to achieve political settlements.
Czech Prime Minister and the leader of the country’s Social Democratic Party Bohuslav Sobotka has announced that he is willingness to form a leading coalition with the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia following the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 2017. Izvestia writes citing the Czech European parliament deputies belonging to the Communist party that the two parties may cooperate if ties with the Russian Federation improve and anti-Russia sanctions are lifted, as well as there is a possibility to hold a referendum on the country’s NATO membership.
The Communist party has always been ready to team up with other forces in the leading coalition, and has been advocating a shift from the country’s lop-sided international course. Czech communists say that relations with other countries should be based on dialogue, not sanctions policy the West sticks to. "Russia is a European state, and we welcome the idea of cooperation from Lisbon to Vladivostok," Jaromir Kohlicek, member of the European Parliament from the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia and European Parliament MP told Izvestia. The party has always been "against sanctions imposed not only on Russia but on other countries as well, particularly Iran," he noted. "Also, we consider it necessary to enact visa-free entry for Russian citizens as the flow of Russian tourists (to the Czech Republic) will boost the country’s economy," the politician added.
According to another European deputy and member of the Communist party, Katerina Konecna, Russia is very important to the Czech Republic from an economic viewpoint, and even despite the sanctions, Russia remains an important market for Czech companies. Analysts say that the lifting of economic restrictions could be a logic step that would improve the Czech economy itself, the newspaper writes.
Alexander Novak is not concerned about a return to the shale boom and considers it to be a "done deal". "This is one of the resources to satisfy mounting demand," he said in an interview with RBC. "This year may see an even higher demand for crude than experts projected, at the level of 1.3-1.5 mln barrels per day, and in any case it is necessary to cover this demand in the future," the minister stressed, adding that "if the growth rates of shale oil production are in line with the growth rates of demand, it is no big thing, what’s important is that those players that are adequately competitive and those that spend less on shale oil production will be competing with each other." According to Novak, "today’s main task is to strike a balance in supply and demand."
"On the whole, I think that both the traditional oil production and the production of deep-water shale oil are sources that satisfy economic demands.
Speaking about the agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC countries on joint reduction of oil output to 32.5 mln barrels per day, the first sort of deal reached since 2008, that came into force on January 1, 2017, Novak noted its positive impact on the market. "the oil price has stabilized at a level of $55 [per barrel - TASS], and we see the investment activity recovering, which is positive. There is a certain predictability for companies, for investors, a greater trust in the market," the energy minister noted. "We find it crucial to reach a 100% implementation of the agreement, which will be made in the coming months," he added.
The agreement implies that the total crude oil production cut will amount to 1.7-1.8 mln barrels per day in the first half of 2017.
After a long period of rising car prices, the automobile market is about to see a new trend - auto companies have started to cut prices, mainly on particular models or on spare parts. Kommersant writes that Ford Sollers has taken a step further to announce a discount drive and and it will be reducing prices by 5-7% in March on most of the company’s models produced in Russia. A source in the company told the newspaper that a hike in local manufacturing content has been the reason for the move, including stock material. Last year, the company shifted to using local work stock for all cars assembled in Russia. Also, a strengthening ruble has had a positive effect on the business.
A source in the sector told Kommersant that the ruble’s exchange rate is the key factor enabling it to cut prices. The exchange rate influences both imported and locally-made components, but even domestically-produced parts have imported elements. Given the recent drop in foreign exchange rates there is some space for maneuvering, "with some saving additional earnings for a rainy day, while some jump into the thick of things right now," the source added. Prices on other automobile brands are now rising by and large, though the cost of particular configurations and parts are already falling, the newspaper writes.
Russian scientists are wrapping up pre-clinical trials of a genetically-engineered wonder drug that can fight cancerous growths even of the most advanced types, Deputy Director of the Scientific Research Institute of Highly Pure Biological Treatments of the Russian Federal Medical & Biological Agency (FMBA), Professor Andrey Simbirtsev told Izvestia daily. Clinical trials usually take 2-3 years, he noted.
"Unfortunately, we cannot manage faster, since this is serious research," Simbirtsev said, adding that "taking into consideration the final stage of pre-clinical trials, patients may get the new remedy within 3-4 years."
According to Simbirtsev, the cancer fighter has been tested on mice and rats with melanoma and sarcoma, and in the majority of cases it resulted in full healing even in advanced stages. "This means that the protein contains the potential level necessary for treating cancer," he told the newspaper.
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