The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) highlighted the digital economy, which President Vladimir Putin put forward practically as the new national focus. The digital economy was presented as a remedy for major issues ranging from declining purchasing power among the population to disaffected youth prone towards demonstrations. However, according to experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the digital economy might pose very real dangers.
According to the newspaper, the forum became a platform where Russia presented not only investment opportunities, but also its commitment to progress, willingness to cooperate - in particular with Western experts in the most promising areas.
Experts, interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, interpret the sudden "digital economy trend" differently. According to Director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics Nikita Isaev, "Commitment to the digital economy is a good reason to gloss over the government’s inaction and lack of economic reforms. After all, there are no answers to what the digital economy is, how to cultivate it and what effect we will have."
The majority of experts agree it is essential to cultivate the digital economy. "Many developing countries pay priority attention to it," Associate professor at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Irina Komarova told the newspaper. "The level of development of digital technologies in Russia is much lower than in most countries. We are behind, according to rough estimates, four times. At the same time, it is obvious that new technologies should be used not only by business, but also by the state both to provide public services and to increase the transparency of budgetary funds usage," she added.
According to some analysts, there are risks that this good idea would potentially "go to the dogs" during its implementation phase. "The best thing to do to ensure Russia’s digital economy continues to develop, is simply not to interfere," Solid Management analyst Sergey Zvenigorodsky told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, adding he expects that the state will decide to do something with Internet commerce, as its turnover continues to grow. "However, this is a supranational economy, almost beyond the state control, since the main commodity is information," Zvenigorodsky stressed.
At the same time, some experts believe that the digital economy, which would be ideally based on the principles of anonymity, mutual trust, freedom, competitiveness, lack of control over state monopoly, is almost impossible to implement in Russia.
"Russian authorities tend to move in a different direction. The Yarovaya (anti-terror) laws, which calls for additional requirements on telecom operators and Internet service providers, the Central Bank’s desire to develop its own cryptocurrency, GLONASS technology used as a basis for the truck toll scheme known as Platon all exist for a good reason," Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted.
A new major gold mining player might appear on the Russian market and occupy second place behind the country’s frontrunner, Polyus Gold. A potential merger between Zoloto Kamchatki and Petropavlovsk might be the initial step in this direction, Kommersant wrote citing sources.
According to the newspaper, Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova group intends to gain control of the gold mining company Petropavlovsk, since it is already its largest shareholder (22.35% of shares). If the group wins at Petropavlovsk’s annual general shareholders meeting on June 20, Petropavlovsk (part of Renova) merging with Zoloto Kamchatki might be the next logical step.
According to Kommersant, preliminary negotiations on the subsequent merger of the consolidated company with Highland Gold (whose major shareholder is Roman Abramovich) or Vysochaishy (GV Gold) could be held later.
According to Kommersant, in the case of a merger with Highland Gold, the amalgamated company with a production volume of about 25 tonnes would be able to take second place, but should it merge with Vysochaishy instead of Highland Gold, it would be fourth with 18.4 tonnes.
Russia is willing to take all the necessary steps to help Manila in its fight against ISIS (terrorist organization, banned in Russia), including supplying equipment and military advisers, sources in Russia’s military and diplomatic circles told Izvestia. The danger of ISIS terrorists bolstering their positions in the Philippines threatens to turn Southeast Asia into a new stronghold of international terrorism.
During Rodrigo Duterte’s interrupted visit to Moscow, the parties were hashing over possible agreements in the military sphere - if needed, Russia will do its utmost to assist Manila, a Russian military-diplomatic source told Izvestia.
According to Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies of the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin, Russia is interested in military-technical cooperation with the Philippines.
"For instance, Russia could offer Manila some weapons ranging from small arms and light armored cars, to helicopters. Russia has been trying to enter the Philippine market since the 1990s, but it did not succeed, and if we leave now even with a small supply, it will be fine - the country is growing, there are 100 million people there, and we will be able to expand," he told the newspaper.
Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Nur Aziemah Azman told Izvestia that when ISIS is crushed in the Middle East, the countries of Southeast Asia, namely the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, "might become the new stronghold for the group."
Gazprom, Italy's Edison and Greece's DEPA inked an agreement at the SPIEF-2017 on establishing the Poseidon gas pipeline, which is expected to deliver Russian gas from Turkey via Greece to the south Italy, Kommersant wrote. However, according to the newspaper, Italy’s Snam has instead suggested expanding the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) pipeline, where it owns 20%. Poseidon would provide Gazprom with an opportunity to deliver to the south of Italy, Greece and Bulgaria. However, Hungary and Serbia would have to receive Russian gas from the north or look for a way to build a new pipeline through Bulgaria.
According to the newspaper, Poseidon’s capacity has not been divulged, however, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak earlier spoke about 16 bln cubic meters per year in Greece’s surface and up to 12 bln cubic meters in the sea route to Italy. Thus, the pipeline would be capable of taking on Turkish Stream’s second thread, supplying about 6 bln cubic meters of gas to Greece and Bulgaria and 10 bln cubic meters to the south of Italy.
On the other hand, the TAP pipeline proposal by Italian gas transport company Snam would be half the cost of the Poseidon route. However, according to Kommersant sources in the gas company, Gazprom considers TAP as an additional option. "The partners were the first to offer Poseidon, and it would be wrong to turn it down without good reason," the source said. In addition, if TAP was utilized, the opposition of the European Commission would be inevitable, which has always viewed this project as a source of Azerbaijani gas and an alternative to deliveries from Russia.
Turkey's major international airport Ataturk in Istanbul has notified Russian airlines of resuming services for charter passenger and cargo flights after a three-year hiatus. According to Izvestia, Istanbul’s airport hopes to restore declining passenger traffic by attracting charters, including those from Russia. However, according to experts, as far as Russian tourists see it, Istanbul is not as attractive as the resorts of Antalya, Marmaris or Dalaman.
A source in one of the Russian airlines told Izvestia, the carrier received notification from the Turkish side in late May that Ataturk Airport is now open for charter flights from a representative of Bilen air service, one of the leading companies in Turkey, specializing in aviation services.
Aviation market experts told the newspaper, that the decline in passenger traffic at Istanbul’s airport could be due to the recent unstable political situation in Turkey. At the same time, Istanbul is not considered a popular holiday destination compared to Turkey’s traditional resorts.
According to press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Irina Tyurina, tourist flow to Istanbul can be beefed up only through boosting sightseeing tours, but that would not even require charter flights.
"Charters are used only when mass demand is guaranteed - generally, beach and ski resorts. Mass holiday destination does not really apply to Istanbul. The volume of tourist interest in it is not comparable with Turkey’s seaside resorts. Therefore, there are no prospects for Russian charter tourist flow to Istanbul," she told Izvestia.
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