President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I will say a few words at the beginning of our talk and then I would like to hear what you have to say.
Just a word about the APEC summit which ended yesterday in Singapore.
First of all, for us, for Russians, it was very interesting and revealing because we are going to host the APEC summit in 2012. The summit will be held in Vladivostok and naturally it is very important for us to see how our colleagues organise something similar. I would like to congratulate our Singaporean colleagues on their brilliant organisation and to thank them for creating all the necessary conditions for productive discussions between APEC leaders and, of course, for the hospitality you have shown us.
We discussed various topics – certainly our conversation revolved mainly around the crisis and future models of post-crisis development. We also discussed climate change and ensuring so-called sustainable growth. But of course all state leaders are unsure how we will overcome the crisis, how long our economies will take to recover, what other efforts are required, and what we need to create a modern global financial architecture that is significantly better adapted to today's conditions.
Of course we talked about APEC's significance and the processes at work in the Asia-Pacific region, about strengthening confidence-building measures, creating a full-value modern business climate in the region, as well as additional opportunities for international alliances.
As an integral part of the Asia-Pacific region, our country is actively developing its contacts with APEC countries, regional organisations and multilateral forums. We will continue to do so because we believe that this is actually the most promising direction for our country's development in the coming years.
Our bilateral contacts including those with Singapore – that is, where we are now – form the basis of this cooperation.
I am happy to point out that even during the crisis our bilateral relations have not suffered and our bilateral trade has not decreased but rather increased. Compared with the same period last year, trade this year increased by 60 percent. This shows that our relations have very good potential. Even the current difficulties in both our economy and Singapore's have neither derailed our cooperation nor created insurmountable obstacles to further developing these relations in the future.
What I consider very important is the practical part of our visit, namely the establishment of an intergovernmental commission for cooperation in the economy, science and technology.
The head of our commission, Deputy Prime Minister Mr Sobyanin, is here today. I am sure that the intergovernmental commission will act as an effective mechanism to develop this kind of relationship and, hopefully, facilitate the potential for our economic cooperation.
We should try to implement various projects. Perhaps our Singaporean friends are aware that some time ago I put forward the idea of a comprehensive modernisation of our economy, a modernisation based on innovation. This means making the transition from an economy based on providing raw materials to an innovative model, based on the extensive use of high technology and ensuring a high degree of competitiveness for our economy.
In light of this plan, Singapore's experience is of great interest to us, namely the best practices that can be used to promote innovation and investment, as well as the use of electronic means of communication and the very widespread use of electronic services for citizens and for businesses. I just watched a presentation that struck me as extremely interesting, especially in so far as practical matters are concerned. All the entrepreneurs here will know that matters such as the registration of new businesses using forms available online and simply communicating electronically with the authorities simplifies things enormously, eliminates a lot of problems, and saves a lot of time. We saw an application filed to open a Russian restaurant in Singapore, an answer is expected in somewhat a week if everything was in order, and then it could set to work immediately. For all intents and purposes this is a very important area for us, and we have seen that in this regard Singapore has achieved very good results.
Of course for us Singapore's success in entering markets in the Asia-Pacific region is very valuable. In this regard we have set up some special organisations, including the Russia-Singapore Business Incubator Futurus, which is in operation since 2007. This has facilitated the mutually beneficial exchange of technologies, including nanotechnology. I hope that there will be more new projects of this kind, and in any event we are counting on this visit by the Russian delegation to give such cooperative efforts renewed momentum.
I also expect that we can strengthen the legal framework for cooperation in this regard. We have currently prepared a series of agreements with the Government of Singapore. After this meeting with you I will be taking official part in negotiations with the Government. I hope that we'll talk about how we can improve our cooperation on legal matters, since that is so significant. This involves business relationships and exchanges, human contact, the use of various means of facilitating travel to our respective countries. We are committed to working on these things.
I would also like to note one more important thing, the Russia-Singapore business forum. It holds regular meetings, bringing together not only business representatives from Russia and Singapore but businessmen from the Commonwealth of Independent States, our closest partners, as well as from Southeast and East Asia, Europeans and others.
I would like to give the floor to the representatives of the business community so that we can discuss the current state and prospects of Russian-Singaporean relations.
If you allow me, I would like to say a few words as well.
Naturally, everyone talks about the crisis – about how it has created problems and how it has created opportunities. I think that the impact this crisis has on the kinds of projects being discussed today, at this table, and the type of cooperation that we have established, is an indirect kind of impact. Furthermore, if you consider that in spite of certain traditions, we are just launching this type of cooperation, I think the prospects for relations between all kinds of companies – Singaporean companies, as well as Russian ones – appear absolutely serious and reliable in practically every area of cooperation. And all of our colleagues who have spoken here can, at the very least, find partners in Russia, or may already be working in various areas, be it cooperation with our major raw materials suppliers, cooperation in the construction area or in the financial sector, investing into Russian companies or the high-tech industries, which have become the topic of more frequent discussions, development of innovative technologies or creation of innovative businesses.
Naturally, there are still plenty of problems in a variety of areas, including in our nation. But these problems are not related to the crisis; rather, they are purely Russian problems. We see them clearly. As the head of state, I am not going to hide anything from you. We still need to strengthen our legislation and develop our judicial system, because there are several things crucial for any foreign investor.
First, a truly reliable support from the part of the government, in the broadest sense of that word. But in Russia, perhaps, it has particular significance.
Second, a modern legal regime – a regime that will be clear and in line with the ideas of a foreign businessperson or a modern individual.
And finally, the third thing — protection of interests in the event of any dispute, judicial remedy that is a well-developed, modern and fair system of legal protection.
By having these factors in place, I believe that various investments will be guaranteed and will be clearly of interest to the government and to private businesses. So, we will need to continue working in that direction. This does not mean that our nation’s laws in this area are all inadequate; it means that in any case our judicial and legal systems need further development. Indeed, some of our colleagues here spoke about this when they spoke about protection of property rights and the legal system as a whole.
We clearly understand that although we have some large companies, Russia needs to create microenvironments made up of small and medium-sized companies, because large businesses can only develop when there are good, full-fledged ties with small and medium-sized businesses – the kind of environment where large companies can bring their projects to fruition. We consider this to be a very important area of development as well. I hope that our Singaporean colleagues will also be able to participate in these efforts.
The diversification of our economy, the transition from raw material-based economy to an innovation-based model is an extremely important task for us. Of course, this is easier said than done, and obviously, it will be years before an innovation-based model will be implemented. In this regard, Singapore’s experience is very inspiring for us, because it shows how it is possible for a nation to rebuild its economy in a relatively short period of time, to make it attractive, and to essentially become one of the economic centres of the Asia-Pacific region.
Of course, Russia’s role is different. Russia is a huge country both in terms of territory, as the largest nation in the world, and in terms of its population. It is also a country with impressive raw material stocks. Still, if we do not change our way of thinking, we will remain just a supplier of raw materials to many other nations, which is simply impossible in the 21st century, for we all understand that only those who can offer new technologies can win in the 21st century.
Naturally, no one is rejecting raw materials as a business; no one is rejecting gas and oil supplies and provision of other services that Russia has traditionally provided. But these areas of business must exist harmoniously with the development of a modern new economy. In this regard, we are very much counting on investments and on technological assistance from our Singaporean colleagues.
Everything that you have done in recent years has provided an impressive example of how an economy can develop under fairly close attention from the government. But moreover, it has also shown that this can be done without any excessive hands-on government involvement. At the same time, Singapore serves as an example of how to implement major projects in cooperation with neighbouring nations and major companies from other countries, thereby helping one’s own economy and creating new jobs.
Finally, I feel there is another area of great importance for us: projects in education. We understand that our educational system has traditionally been viewed as very strong. This is generally true in regard to classical subjects. Universities in Russia have always provided a very high level of education. But what we have always lacked is business education. We are just now beginning to create business curricula. In this regard, the role and participation of our Singaporean partners is extremely important.
Yesterday, I had another opportunity to thank Minister Mentor of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew for his direct involvement in this process. He has done a great deal to help us create a business school in the Moscow Region, which will serve as a model for opening other schools of this kind in other regions of our nation. I can tell you honestly that the model we implemented in the Moscow Region with the help of our Singaporean partners and personal input from Mr Lee Kuan Yew turned out to be far more successful than another project launched in St Petersburg, because the school in Skolkovo, in the Moscow Region, is already working, while the one in St Petersburg is not.
So, what does this prove? It proves two things. First, it is always better to have an experienced mentor. In this case, our mentor comes from Singapore, and he is not only a man of great experience, but also a man well-known throughout the world and highly respected in our country.
Second, when a private business gets involved, things usually move faster than when the same tasks are taken on by the state. Unfortunately, that’s just how things tend to go, which is not very comforting for the government.
I would like to once again return to what I said at the beginning of today’s conversation. Life can change very quickly. The crisis that has struck the global economy and the economies of most developed and rapidly developing nations has shown that we will never be the same, like we were before the crisis. We must learn from the crisis, and we must use it to draw some conclusions that will allow us to develop cooperation on a fundamentally new level.
I hope that our Singaporean colleagues and the companies present here today will really be more active on the Russian market. We would very much like that. We will try to create the kind of conditions that are necessary for Russia’s full-fledged integration into the international division of labour and to form the necessary legal foundations, because there is no other way for our nation to develop. Still, even what we did and said today shows that our cooperation has very good prospects. Thus, the final factor that I believe is important (it is last, but not least) is personal contacts.
Last night, following the reception, I saw many tourists from the Russian Federation. I am sure that this is a good sign, and not just because it is good for Singapore’s economy, since tourists always bring money. It is also good because some people come here not only to rest, but also to get some idea of what this nation is like and what opportunities exist here for developing business ties. These are not just top managers from major companies represented here; these are also representatives of small and medium-sized businesses. I see this as a matrix for developing our relations in the years to come.
I would like to wish all Russian and Singaporean businessmen present here today success in their mutual investments. Have no doubt, the Russian government will offer you various kinds of assistance, and I hope that we will receive similar assistance from the Singaporean side. With your permission, I will now head out to discuss this issue with Mr Prime Minister. Thank you.