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Business Asked to Help Modernize


12 February 2010 By Irina Filatova  From left, Fridman, Prokhorov and RSPP president Alexander Shokhin at the modernization forum on Thursday.

Mikhail Klimentyev / Reuters / RIA-Novosti  From left, Fridman, Prokhorov and RSPP president Alexander Shokhin at the modernization forum on Thursday.

President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday called on leaders of big business to contribute to the modernization of the economy and participate in the creation of a «city of the future» to spur on innovation.

Medvedev chaired a meeting of his commission to modernize the economy in Tomsk, where he met with leaders of the business community, including RusAl chairman Viktor Vekselberg, ONEXIM Group owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Rusnano chief Anatoly Chubais and LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov.

«We should make efforts together to turn our economy in the direction of modernization,» he said, adding that there was no future for an economy based on exports of raw materials.

For their part, the businessmen themselves were quick to show off their contributions to an innovative economy. Among innovative projects discussed at the meeting was Prokhorov's plan for a low-budget car.

Prokhorov said he planned to launch mass production of his car by the middle of 2012. The car will use liquefied natural gas as a fuel and will fundamentally change the existing infrastructure of the automobile industry, he said. «The main thing is that it can run,» Medvedev quipped.

Prokhorov said ONEXIM Group was ready to provide financing of the project in full, while the government should ease certification standards and develop a market for liquefied natural gas.

In January, ONEXIM Group received Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's backing to begin production of the car using a new design and cutting-edge technology. The car will sell for 8,900 euros ($12,150), Vedomosti reported quoting a source in the government.

Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina said at the meeting that Prokhorov's carmaking venture may qualify for state support.

Billionaire Viktor Vekselberg said he hoped that he could get government funding for his solar-panel projects.

His Renova investment company is opening a solar-panel factory in Chuvashia, which will start production by 2012.

The president's commission to modernize the economy will decide on its support for such projects in May, Nabiullina said.

But in order for Russia to succeed in its innovation drive, a great deal more investment needs to be attracted, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said at the meeting.

Kudrin said that in order to speed up the modernization process, the volume of investment in all fields should be increased to 14 trillion rubles ($463 billion), or 30 percent of gross domestic product, from the current 8 trillion rubles.

He added that a favorable macroeconomic climate and low interest rates are a necessary condition for raising the necessary level of investment.

Medvedev also called for the creation of a research and development center that would serve as the epicenter of innovative development in the country, and he invited business leaders to contribute.

«This new center of innovation is of course not another Silicon Valley, but a kind of prototype for a city of the future, which must become the largest test site of the new economic policy,» he said.

Medvedev called on the businessmen to present their modernization plans soon, adding that the funds needed to implement the projects would be reserved in the budget.

Source: The Moscow Times

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Commentary and opinions: a selection of excerpts from speeches and presentations by Mikhail Prokhorov