MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) – The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), an annual gathering of political and business leaders, will open Friday for the 18th time, uncompromised by Western sanctions against Russia.
“In terms of program quality, in my opinion, it is more interesting than last year. We have an artificial problem that due to some participants not coming, the debate on certain issues is supposed to be a failure,” Deputy Minister of Economic Development Sergei Belyakov told RIA Novosti Wednesday.
Forum organizers say that there is no drop in foreign participants as companies not sending their CEOs will still be represented by deputy managers.
The geopolitical and economic trouble in the form of Western sanctions and the looming recession will not spoil the festive atmosphere of the forum, the organizers believe. The forum budget this year will exceed 1 billion rubles, with only about 45 million of that coming from the state.
SPIEF 2014, held on May 22-24, will welcome about 6,500 guests, including more than 609 heads of major Russian and foreign corporations. Some 75 countries have sent official delegations to participate in the forum.
SEARCH FOR GROWTH
The theme of the forum this year is “Building trust in an era of change.” The chosen topic has seen a new angle develop against the backdrop of geopolitical instability in the world and threats of sanctions from the West.
Therefore, the key topics for discussion will be the outlook for global growth and growth in emerging markets, innovation in the energy sector and attracting private investment to infrastructure development projects.
The latter is especially important for Russia, which this year plans to launch a series of multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects co-financed by the National Wealth Fund.
The development of Russia’s competitive edge in the global market will be discussed in a separate panel. Experts, ministers and entrepreneurs will try to find the answer of how to move to a new phase of sustained growth for the Russian economy and improve its competitiveness.
Russian GDP growth slowed down over the last year, and now the economy is teetering on the brink of recession. Therefore, authorities are concerned about searching for new sources of growth and markets for national exports.
JOINT EFFORT AGAINST RISK
Another important pillar of SPIEF 2014 is strategies against risk and disruptions. The panels will revolve around key elements of the current corporate risk management techniques, including open data, cashless transactions, information war and confidence sustainment approaches.
Special attention is to be paid to media and technology as important external factors shaping the way business is done globally.
ALL ABOUT ENERGY
A fair share of the forum’s agenda will be dedicated to energy, a traditional Russian export. The largest Russian oil companies are competing for new markets and the creation of strategic partnerships with global leaders in the industry.
A separate session ambitiously titled “Oil and gas companies as an engine driving change in the world economy” will be hosted by Rosneft’s Igor Sechin, recently sanctioned by the US.
However, the list of participating energy companies remains undisclosed, with entrance by invitation only.
The energy-related agenda will be in the spotlight especially after Russian President Putin’s recent official visit to China, cementing packages of bilateral contracts, including the long-negotiated gas deal between Gazprom and CNPC.