Why are Russia’s business elite are getting all worked up about a potential merger of the country’s largest metals and mining companies? It will probably never happen, says Yulia Latynina. ‘If the government is determined to finance large-scale infrastructure projects as a way of stimulating the faltering economy, there should be real, transparent competition for construction contracts.’ Group of 20 countries, including Russia, are seeking a relaxation of commitments they made at last November’s summit in response to the financial crisis, including the promise not to raise trade barriers, which Russia already broke with this year’s imported car tariffs. Bad loans are likely to soar to 10% of Russia’s banking sector by the end of 2010, says Sberbank, just a little higher than VTB Group’s prediction. Did you know? Vladimir Putin is the chairman of Vneshekonombank. The bank says it has received a total of $90 billion in bids from troubled Russian companies, but Putin’s deputy Igor Shuvalov said owners of companies seeking emergency funding from the government should dip into their own pockets first because the state won’t help everyone. Oleg Deripaska, who received $4.5 billion of emergency funding from the government, said Putin is right to limit the amount of bailout money available to companies. The Times is counting oligarch losses, estimating current figures of around $260 billion. Russia’s international reserves dropped by $9.7 billion this week thanks to interventions to support the ruble.