Igor Shuvalov Interviewed on RBC: ‘New Principles Should Underlie a Post-Pandemic Economy’

6 april 2021 года
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According to the IMF, the COVID-19 pandemic may cost the world economy an estimated 28 trillion US dollars in 2020. And this figure will undoubtedly be even higher in 2021. No economy in the world, including BRICS, was able to avoid losses. GDP shrank in all countries except China at year-end.

But the fall could have been much deeper if the BRICS governments had failed to take prompt crisis-fighting measures. The five countries’ development banks, united in the BRICS Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism (ICM), provided assistance with the rescue schemes. The development banks acted as operators of the governmental rescue programmes, providing businesses with low-interest loans, helping commercial banks to restructure bad debts.

Of course, each country chose its own measures to fight the crisis. As part of the 2020 rescue package, VEB.RF issued surety bonds totalling 500.4 billion roubles (6.7 billion US dollars) to commercial banks. The BRICS economies received help from the New Development Bank (NDB). The BRICS members are to receive a total of 10 billion US dollars to fight against the pandemic and cope with its repercussions.

But the goal of the BRICS development institutions is not limited to minimise the economic consequences of the pandemic. It is necessary to provide impetus for sustainable and inclusive development rather than just reclaim the percentages of GDP lost during the pandemic. And our activities in 2020 show that together we can do much more.

The BRICS development institutions should strengthen the coordination of investment policies and the exchange of experience. That is why it is necessary to focus on several key areas. Most notably this is cooperation in healthcare, in developing smart cities and new urban technologies, as well introducing the principles of a green economy and responsible financing.

Firstly, with support from the NDB, the ICM members could help to set up a BRICS medical centre of excellence designed to assess current health risks in the member countries. The centre could regularly collect and publish research and test results, facilitating the exchange of experience and enhancing coordination in the area of vaccination and immunisation among the BRICS national ministries and agencies responsible for emergency management, environmental and natural protection and public health.

The centre would also help to accelerate the BRICS certification and distribution of vaccines produced by the five member countries. We are already doing the groundwork for this initiative. We launched the From Russia with Love campaign during the pandemic, sending medications and necessary equipment, including mobile hospitals and ventilators, to other BRICS countries. Moreover, this initiative included launching the production of Sputnik V in Brazil in January.

Secondly, we should work together in close cooperation to develop cities, which are the main contributors to GDP. The pandemic was the biggest blow to their economies. But at the same time, there were positive effects: this sharply accelerated the digitalisation of services, which will continue after the crisis. And we need to strengthen the coordination of sharing experience in financing smart cities and introducing urban tech in BRICS, that is to say, the services that help to improve services for people and businesses and make the urban economy more resilient.

And finally, the pandemic—with the rethinking of the importance of human life and the value of the space around us—also made us understand that new, more sustainable and equitable principles should underlie a recovering economy. This popularised the concept of “Build Back Better” around the world, driven by the need to switch to a green economy and responsible business conduct. Last November, the BRICS development institutions signed the BRICS ICM’s Principles of Responsible Financing. The principles include commitments to integrate into project assessment the analysis of environmental, social and economic impacts on local communities; promote inclusive and sustainable economic models in BRICS; and much more. The introduction of the provisions of this document into the day-to-day activities of the development banks will allow them to look at their potential projects from a new perspective.

VEB.RF was deeply involved with the development of the national green finance system in 2020, and the system is to receive official approval from the government in May 2021. We find it useful to move towards the harmonisation of national approaches and the exchange of experience in this area. Since certain countries intend to introduce cross-border carbon regulation, it would be reasonable to form a working group of the BRICS ICM to develop a climate risk assessment methodology and incorporate the working group’s deliverables into the international standards and regulatory rules that may affect investment, export, and ratings of development institutions, their customers and partners.

Without being limited to these three areas, the BRICS development institutions cannot help but set themselves even more ambitious goals: to play a key role in formulating new, post-pandemic national development strategies. And in this regard, the BRICS ICM should be a workshop for assembling new financial and investment ideas, models and projects that our countries could apply at home with minimal modifications. This will allow us to deal with the economic consequences of the pandemic more effectively and will make the five countries only stronger.

VEB.RF is a member of the BRICS Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism, holding the presidency of the BRICS ICM in 2020.

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VEB.RF to Provide Financing for Exports for Uzbekistan’s Major Gas Field

6 april 2021 года
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  • VEB.RF supports the promotion of Russian-made products in the Uzbek oil and gas sector
  • VEB.RF is involved in discussing potential projects totalling over 1 billion US dollars

VEB.RF, Gazprombank and Surhan Investments Limited have signed an indicative term sheet to carry out the 25 Years of Independence (M25) gas exploration and production project in Uzbekistan.

The document was signed by Daniil Algulyan, Deputy Chairman and member of the Board, VEB.RF; Alexey Belous, Deputy Chairman of the Management Board, Gazprombank; and Andrey Ignatov, CEO, Surhan Gas Chemical Operating Company. The signing ceremony took place in the presence of VEB.RF Chairman Igor Shuvalov.

The project includes the construction of a gas processing plant and infrastructure facilities in the Surxondaryo Region, Uzbekistan, designed for the production, transport and sale of natural gas.

The total project value is estimated at 1.75 billion US dollars. The Russian financial institutions are to lend 900 million US dollars.

“VEB.RF is now involved in discussing Uzbek oil and gas projects with Russian exports of high-tech products and services for a total of over 1 billion US dollars. The M25 project is a key project being implemented in Uzbekistan and has strategic significance for industrial and regional development. VEB.RF’s commitment under the project is estimated at 400 million US dollars, including financing for the supply of Russian high-tech products and services,” Daniil Algulyan said.

The estimated gas reserves of the M25 field, the largest undeveloped gas field in Uzbekistan, exceed 150 billion cubic metres of gas (proven + probable reserves), according to an independent auditor. Marketable gas will be produced by a gas processing plant with an annual capacity of 5 billion cubic metres. The design and construction of the gas processing plant use Shell-licensed gas purification and sulphur production technologies.

The M25 project is implemented by a consortium of international investors under the production sharing agreement signed with the Republic of Uzbekistan in April 2017. The project’s shareholders are Altmax Holding Ltd, Uzbekneftegaz, and Gas Project Development Central Asia AG. Surhan Gas Chemical Operating Company is the project’s operator under the production sharing agreement.

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Russian Manufacturers to Supply Municipal Vehicles to Uzbekistan

6 april 2021 года
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The Office of the Mayor of Tashkent, VEB.RF and Russian Export Center (REC, part of the VEB.RF Group) signed a tripartite agreement during the International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM (Big Industrial Week in Uzbekistan).

The document specifies the joint implementation of a project to renew and expand Tashkent’s fleet of municipal vehicles and road equipment. For instance, the Russian counterparties are expected to supply more than 130 units of equipment for a total of 1.25 billion roubles.

VEB.RF, EXIAR and EXIMBANK OF RUSSIA (part of the REC Group) will provide financing using their lending and insurance products to support Russian exports. REC will engage Russian manufacturers, while some equipment will be assembled in Uzbekistan by UzAuto Trailer in cooperation with KAMAZ and companies specialising in aftermarket modification.

“The potential for cooperation in the supply of municipal vehicles is more than 5 billion roubles,” said Daniil Algulyan, Deputy Chairman and member of the Board, VEB.RF. “Uzbekistan is a key area for VEB.RF, is a partner that has proved its reliability for very many years. The supply of municipal vehicles will help to strengthen our cooperation. Russia will have the opportunity to increase the export of engineering products, and Tashkent will receive reliable and efficient equipment that will make the city even more beautiful and comfortable.”

“Cooperation with the Office of the Mayor of Tashkent opens up great opportunities for Russian-Uzbek projects to the develop urban infrastructure in all areas, from the supply of vehicles and equipment to smart city systems. A characteristic and important feature of the project for municipal vehicles is bilateral cooperation: some equipment will be assembled in Uzbekistan jointly with Russian companies,” said Veronika Nikishina, CEO, REC.

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VEB.RF and EXIMBANK OF RUSSIA to Provide Financing for New Underground Carriages for Tashkent

5 april 2021 года
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  • VEB.RF has a new export contract with Uzbekistan
  • The Tashkent Metro will receive 40 new carriages

VEB.RF and Tashkent Metro Company, a subsidiary of O’zbekiston Temir Yo’llari (Uzbekistan Railways), have signed a loan agreement for the supply of ten modern underground trains manufactured by Transmashholding, Russia. The credit line is 30.4 million euros for 12 years.

Russian Export Center (REC, part of the VEB.RF Group) will also provide financing through EXIMBANK OF RUSSIA (part of the REC Group), which will have a separate loan agreement for a portion of the price of underground carriages and for the price of spare parts and accessories, with insurance to be provided by EXIAR (part of the REC Group).

The document was signed on behalf of VEB.RF by its Deputy Chairman and member of the Board Daniil Algulyan and on behalf of the Tashkent Metro by Tashkent Metro Company’s CEO Oybek Khudoikulov. The signing ceremony took place during the International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM.

“Support for Russian industrial exports is a key area for VEB.RF. A large-scale programme to renew the public transport system is under way in Uzbekistan. The Tashkent Metro already uses Russian-made modern trains: with the support of VEB.RF, Tashkent received five trains in the autumn of 2019. And this is not the only Uzbek-Russian urban project. VEB.RF and the Office of the Mayor of Tashkent are now discussing several infrastructural projects,” Daniil Algulyan said.

“Uzbekistan is our important partner, and we are definitely interested in the joint implementation of large infrastructural projects aimed at socio-economic development. This project features the participation of two Russian financial institutions, EXIMBANK OF RUSSIA and VEB.RF. With support from the Uzbek Government, they provided full financing for the buyer of Russian equipment, Tashkent Metro Company,” said Veronika Nikishina, CEO, REC.

“We are sincerely grateful to our Uzbek partners for their confidence,” said Andrey Vasilyev, Deputy CEO, Transmashholding. “I’m sure the residents of Tashkent will appreciate the comfort, aesthetics and safety of the new Russian trains.”

The trains will be manufactured by Moscow-based Metrovagonmash (part of Transmashholding). Each of the ten trains will have four underground carriages. The carriages feature modular gangway connections, enabling passengers to move from one carriage to another, and double-leaf sliding plug doors, 1.4 metres wide, with external door status signal lights. The head carriages have wheelchair spaces. Each passenger compartment is fitted with touchscreen monitors with all the necessary functionality (station search, route planning, travel time calculation). The passenger compartments and driver’s cabs are equipped with video surveillance, air conditioning and air sanitising systems. The service life of the underground carriages and underframes is 30 years. The windscreen of the driver’s cab is fitted with a manually adjustable sun shade, taking into account the characteristics of the Tashkent Metro: this rapid transit system has a number of elevated sections.

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Intellectually Disabled People in Yakutia to Get New Assistance on 1 April

1 april 2021 года
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  • The republican authorities and VEB.RF launch an assisted living programme for people with disabilities
  • The programme aims to help 30 mentally impaired local residents to become equal members of society

The assisted living programme for people with mental health disabilities is to come into test operation in Yakutia on 1 April.

Svetlana Yachevskaya, Deputy Chairperson and member of the Board, VEB.RF, said: “The project is designed to make it unnecessary for people with mental health needs to live in neuropsychiatric establishments. They can live with their families or even independently. Mental disorders can differ from each other. And many of these people can really lead a socialised life. It’s very important to see how assisted living, the fact that these people live in conditions similar to their homes with certain necessary modifications or in a specially created environment, would help them to learn some social skills. The most important for people—with any abilities, with any impairments, with any special needs—is quality of life. And most of these people can considerably improve their quality of life thanks to our project. Private investment in the social sphere will make it possible to achieve fundamentally new results.”

The idea is implemented within a special category of projects, namely social impact bonds. They are clearly structured. The government engages private investors to finance social impact projects and pays for the achievement of specified outcomes. In this case, the goal is to help 30 mentally impaired local residents to become equal members of society and have normal activities of daily living, such as finding a job and starting a family. Eighteen of them will receive help at home, another 12 in the assisted living residence that will soon open in Yakutsk.

“The Far East, with its vast, sparsely populated area and its harsh climate, is desperate for innovative solutions aimed at improving quality of life. In Yakutia, we adapted mechanisms for financing social impact projects to be suitable for local conditions. These mechanisms are widely used all over the world and make it possible to attract private investment to quickly and efficiently deal with governmental issues. Yakutia has two social impact projects funded by VEB.DV (part of the VEB.RF Group). One of them is aimed at improving the quality of education for schoolchildren, and the other is launched today: in the area of assisted living for people with mental health disabilities. This is only the beginning of the radical transformation of social financing, and the VEB.RF Group will pay particular attention to it in the Far East,” said Artyom Dovlatov, Deputy Chairman and member of the Board, VEB.RF.

The project originator is the Government of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia); the investor is VEB.DV, a subsidiary of VEB.RF; the contractor is GAOORDI, a Saint Petersburg–based association of disabled children’s parents. GAOORDI has considerable experience of organising assisted living facilities for mentally impaired people.

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