President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: It is always a pleasure to meet at this bank. There is a feeling of reliability here, the more so since the bank is very reliable indeed: Sberbank of Russia, our largest bank.
Mr Gref [German Gref, Sberbank President and Chairman of the Board] has just shown me a lot of technological innovations. They are very interesting. I’ve had a look at what the guys in the lending department are doing. I remember the way it used to be. Many of you here have a background in business and have firsthand experience of the way credit committees used to get together around a big table like this to consider each 5,000-ruble loan application. Back then it took them an average of two weeks to process it, whereas now they need less than 24 hours, and sometimes a decision is made within an hour. That’s great.
But the issue on our agenda today is the creation of an International Financial Centre. This remains a critical task. Yesterday I held a meeting with the Government Cabinet. Today, after our meeting here I will go to wish the Government a happy New Year. Yesterday though we talked about the year’s results.
I hope that we have made substantial progress this year in addressing various issues connected with the establishment of the financial centre. This does not mean that everything has been done, of course, but it seems to me that we have not wasted this year. The working group set up within the framework of the Presidential Council for Financial Market Development are drafting their proposals. Today I would like to discuss the progress made in this respect.
One of the things that have been achieved was the Federal Law On Counteracting the Unlawful Use of Insider Information and Market Manipulation. Debates on this issue lasted for a long time. How long did they take? Four years? Ten years? Here, the colleagues are saying they took ten years. I cannot comment on the quality of the law at present as this will become clear through its everyday application, but in any case it is a significant event in the market.
An international advisory board on the creation and development of the International Financial Centre will be set up soon. We took a long time to coordinate different positions, but in the end it turned out to be an interesting and varied group, made up of our people and our foreign partners who are helping us, bankers and business leaders. So now I will establish it.
We need to move forward. We must continue the systemic efforts on all major aspects of this activity. What could be our next step? I propose that we introduce quite significant amendments to the Civil Code. Our colleagues have been working on relevant amendments. Naturally, it is a fundamental document that governs the basic set of economic relations in the country; an economic constitution, if you like. And of course, it is important for us to make it modern. At the same time there are always issues that require more careful attention.
Second, we will need to revise the legislation on stock markets and the organisation of trading, clearing activities and the central depository. Of course, we need to create a better environment for domestic and foreign companies holding IPOs in Russia. According to my information, 14 companies held IPOs in Russia in January-November this year.
But that’s nothing. We realise that there is nothing to be proud of here. Of course, this is not entirely due to the legislation in the narrow sense of the word. This is connected with our investment climate. During the meeting with the Cabinet yesterday I said that, unfortunately, the country’s investment climate is poor, very poor. There are different reasons for that. We agreed to work on addressing this issue next year. Of course, it cannot be resolved in an instant. It requires systemic work at various levels, starting from the President, the Government, legislative bodies, the judiciary, and ending with the way our local officials, our law enforcement agencies and other organisations work.
In addition, we are currently creating new integration associations. We have already established the Customs Union and we are in the process of establishing a Common Economic Space among Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Of course, on the one hand, this gives us additional opportunities, and in my opinion, more interesting opportunities to create a financial centre that in fact will be the centre for three economies rather than just one. On the other hand, this creates additional challenges.