About two weeks ago London greeted numerous top representatives of Russian business, who came to take part in the 10th Russian Economic Forum. Russia-IC had an opportunity to interview Evgueny Meshchaninov, the head of Guarant-InfoCentre, who appeared to become one of the attendants.
Why is London Forum so important for Russian business people?
Today the forum is mostly visited by the people, who once or twice have happened to participate in this business event before. However, every year the number of them increases with the forum getting more popular. Interestingly, Russian authorities tend to pay quite a lot of attention to the event, e.g. in 2006 the forum started with the opening letter written by Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the State Duma of the RF, which was perceived as an attempt to supervise the participants and topics discussed.
Initially London was chosen as a nice place in a free country, where no policy could interfere in discussion of topics raised at the forum. It felt free of thrust opinions and provided new Russian business people with an opportunity to talk about Russia abroad.
What is the difference between forums in London and St. Petersburg?
I have never been to St. Petersburg Forum but, as far as I know, it is held by the government and sponsored by the budget of the country, while London Forum is organized on funds of commercial companies. It is the volume of agreements and contracts signed within the framework of the event the forum’s significance in the long run.
How did the delegates take the news that Russian businessmen and politicians were not recommended to visit the forum?
On the first day of the forum one could hear regrets expressed by sponsors and administrators for people who didn’t manage to come, especially as some of them were announced as speakers and lots of delegates primarily wanted to listen to their opinions on this or that topic. I heard that about 40% of applicants didn’t come, but at the same time the 10th Russian Forum appeared to be the most visited ever. It was told that Russian politicians were engaged in preparation works concerning the speech Russian President would make for the Federal Assembly. Perhaps they find this reason satisfying to explain their absence at the event. As for the businessmen, there were some who had no wish to be seen at the forum and kept in the background due to their business depending on governmental structures, so their behavior may be considered natural in this situation.
What conclusions covering changes in Russian economy and governmental attempts to control commercial organizations can be made now, after the forum is over?
According to the program, there were sessions devoted to analysis of how Russia had changed for the last ten years, but suddenly tragic news about the death of Boris Yeltsin came, so the majority of the delegates turned to remembrances about the days, when he ruled the country and what he gave us. That time was probably hard for most people but simultaneously it was a great start for young Russian businessmen, who were allowed to freely go abroad, to London, in particular. Today the government’s attitude to commercial organizations has changed and the situation on the whole is perceived more negatively than three or five years ago. Fortunately, the next forum will show better tendencies.