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Russia may invest up to 40% of NWF assets in Siberia, Far East

MOSCOW, March 05, /ITAR-TASS/. Russian may invest up to 40 percent of the National Welfare Fund (NWF) assets in infrastructure projects in Siberia and the Far East, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said in an interview with the Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Wednesday, March 5.

“We will certainly not use gold and currency reserves [for this purpose], but we plan to use a part of assets from the National Welfare Fund for major infrastructure projects, and it will be quite a big part of up to 40 percent,” he said.

The government intends to implement its plans to create modern infrastructure in the region. “We need to build railways and roads, communication lines, airports and seaports, power generation facilities and high-voltage power transmission lines. It will take about ten years to carry out minimum plans,” Dvorkovich said, adding, “We have resources for that, including in the National Welfare Fund.”

He said special attention would be paid to the development of social infrastructure so that “the quality of life in Siberia and the Far East does not differ from the quality of life in the European part of the country, Moscow, St. Petersburg or Kazan.”

The government intends to offer “special stimuli to business in order to attract private investments,” the deputy prime minister said.

The list of investment infrastructure projects to be financed out of Russia’s National Welfare Fund will be ready in the second quarter of this year, Minister of Economic Development Alexei Ulyukayev said earlier.

“Based on the results of the strategic analysis, which we have completed, we have sent our short list to the government. Now a complex analysis will be conducted on the basis of the proposals made, with the assessment of project risks. We will draw conclusions together with the Ministry of Finance, and then the government will approve them. But this has yet to be done. I think we will make our conclusions in the second quarter of the year,” Ulyukayev said.

He noted that the short list covered mostly infrastructure (including energy infrastructure) and transport projects, as well as several IT and industrial ones.

The minister said these projects would get not only the 150 billion roubles from the National Welfare Fund left after the rejection of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway project. “There will be a bigger sum than 150 billion roubles because the government reserves funding for projects prepared by the Russian Direct Investment Fund,” he said, adding that there were only two such projects.

“I don’t think there will be one large mega project to take all the money. There will be several projects with smaller sums than those two that have already been approved [150 billion roubles for the Central Orbital Road and as much for the expansion of the Trans-Siberian Railway],” Ulyukayev said.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said earlier his ministry was prepared to use the National Welfare Fund’s resources to support Rosatom nuclear energy corporation’s industrial projects as well.

“We have agreed that Rosatom projects, too, may be implemented with the support of the National Welfare Fund,” he said.

Siluanov did not specify the projects, but said that “these are very beneficial projects in terms of keeping our enterprises working and creating high-skilled jobs. But most importantly, we will get [enterprises] busy for decades ahead.”

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Nikolai Podguzov said that Russia might start one or two investment projects in 2014 using the money from the National Welfare Fund.

“I think it would be good if we start implementing one or two projects in 2014,” he said.

More than 40 percent of the National Welfare Fund’s assets will go into investment projects, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said.

“The decision has been made to leave the 40-percent limit unchanged. Some had proposed to raise it to 50-60 percent. However the president made the decision that the previously declared 40 percent was the limit for the government to observe,” he said.

Shuvalov said that the 40 percent included 670 billion roubles from the Welfare Fund’s assets placed in Vnesheconombank and the funding to be earmarked for the modernisation of the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Railways and the construction of the Central Ring Road outside Moscow. This leaves 150 billion roubles that were earlier intended to be used for building the high-speed railway from Moscow to Kazan, Tatarstan, in the Volga region. “This project was discussed. It will not be dropped and instructions were issued to prepare a feasibility study for this project to see how much it will cost and how soon the investment can return. Only after that will we consider the possibility of financing the project,” Shuvalov said.

“The Fund’s regulations allow it to invest up to 40 percent of its assets,” Putin said.

He believes that the nine billion U.S. dollars attracted by the Russian Direct Investment Fund into joint investment projects could provide strong support for the National Welfare Fund’s financial commitments.

President Vladimir Putin said that the government had made the decision to invest the Welfare Fund’s assets in transport projects such as the modernisation of the Trans-Siberian and Baikal-Amur Railways, and the construction of the Central Ring Road outside Moscow.

“I know that the Russian Direct Investment Fund has prepared an impressive portfolio of infrastructure projects that have evoked interest among private companies, including foreign ones, which are prepared to act as co-investors,” the president said. “The Fund has already attracted about nine billion U.S. dollars’ worth of foreign capital into joint investment projects. I believe this money can provide strong support for the Welfare Fund’s financial commitments.”

The president believes that long-term resources and the sharing of risks with private investors will ensure good returns on investment in Russian infrastructure.

At the same time, Putin stressed the need to remember other projects such as the development of Moscow’s aviation hub, Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Russia’s gold and currency reserves stood at about 493.4 billion U.S. dollars as of the end of February 2014, and the National Welfare Fund amassed three trillion roubles (100 billion U.S. dollars) in 2013, growing by 7.8 percent.