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Today in Russian Business – March 4, 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the new chairman of the Kremlin’s high-tech commission.  Putin called for an expansion of the body’s authority, and indicated that future measures could include changing the way the state buys products and offers tenders, and ‘ordering‘ VEB to spend a certain amount of funds on high-tech ventures.  Growth in the services sector has slowed to a halt.  The government is planning to pump $6 billion into the domestic auto industry as part of a $60 billion, 10-year strategy aimed at salvaging the sector and supporting new ventures such as KamAZ’s deal with Fiat, Sollers, and Daimler.  Meanwhile Mikhail Prokhorov’s project to produce hybrid cars has won Kremlin approval.  New research shows that over two thirds of Russian loans are guaranteed by real estate – ‘a huge risk for the banking sector‘.  The central bank may lower the benchmark interest rate this month in a bid to boost lending, and could raise capital reserve requirements for banks on foreign currency deposits to dampen the flow of speculative capital into Russia.  BusinessWeek looks at the early stages of the Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus customs union.