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Economic Tumble has Opportunity for Fresh Start, states Khodorkovsky

As investors worry amidst a near-global economic recession, the Russian government needs to be forthcoming about its actions in order to boost confidence in their market, imprisoned businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky told The Moscow Times today. The Russian economy has lost billions of dollars on the war in Georgia, and the continued political instability in the affected former Soviet regions doesn’t calm the minds of investors outside of Russia. Foreign investment fell by approximately $20 billion in August, while the stock market has lost billions more – events Khodorkovsky has been closely following in the dozens of publications he receives in his prison cell in the Chita region. “Investors worry most about uncertainty. From my own experience, I know that people will make the worst assumptions if you fail to explain what is happening. That is why restoring trust has to begin with regular, detailed explanations of [the government’s] position“, Khodorkovsky stated in a five-page written response to questions submitted through his lawyers.

On domestic issues, Khodorkovsky firmly denies that foreign money investment alone would solve the country’s economic problems.“I think that money is not the most important thing for Russia today — there is more than enough of it,” he said. “What is important is knowledge, markets and cooperation.”As the Moscow Times interview transcript states, in Mr. Khodorkovsky’s more than five years in prison, he has worked out his own economic and social development plan for Russian through 2020.He said Russia could steadily produce 10 million barrels a day and called the decline to 9.82 million barrels in August artificial. The drop was 0.9 percent year on year. This year has seen the first oil output decline since 1998.“Back in 2002, at a meeting on energy policy, I suggested that we should aim at a production level of 10 million barrels per day (for land-based drilling) and stick to this level for 15-20 years,” Khodorkovsky said.With that, he supported the calls for the development of renewable resources. “I think $70 a barrel, considering the current dollar level, is the price at which modern technologies enable us to gradually replace hydrocarbons with other energy sources,” he said. “But the decision is a political one, as every startup energy project in the history of modern civilization has required major investment.”When asked on his opinion of U.S.-Russian relations and whether they could change after the presidential elections in the United States, in regard to whether the South Ossetia conflict dramatically changed relations between the two countries, Mr. Khodorkovsky responded; “The coming change of presidential administration in the United States and the gradual building of the team holding power in Russia offer a great chance at a fresh start. I very much hope that we will not cast each other in the role of Evil Empire. It would be a counterproductive farce in the conditions of today’s rapidly globalizing world.”