Russian, French presidents rehearse presentations for Canada
Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy on Saturday took part in the closing plenary of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Global Economy: Rethinking Global Economic Trends. This gave the presidents of Russia and France an opportunity to rehearse their speeches for the upcoming G8 and G20 summits in Canada.
Nicolas Sarkozy analyzed the lessons learned from the global economic crisis: "There is no management system in place adapted to the 21st century and globalization." He proposed the solution of adjusting the operation of the financial system, regulating commodity prices and laying the foundation for a new monetary system.
He formulated the following concept for France's presentation at the G8 and G20 summits: "We must think of a foundation for a new international currency system." The existing dollar-based system is incoherent with the global world order, he said calling on Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the issue.
In conclusion, the French president proposed setting up an organization which would unite Europe and Russia into a vast economic space, where people and goods would circulate freely. Sarkozy also emphasized that his presence in St. Petersburg was his own "strategic choice."
Medvedev said that France's and Russia's policies were "very close," citing the two countries' near identical civil and trade law systems. Speaking of the upcoming G8 and G20 meetings, he proposed expanding the set of reserve currencies, because the two strongest currencies, the dollar and the euro, alone have failed to insure the world against problems.
Russia and France did not get the chance to discuss extending the list of reserve currencies. Answering a question from Russian Kommersant daily about whether the ruble could be a reserve currency, Medvedev said there were no essential objections to the idea. However, he said, it could only be materialized when the Ruble or the Yuan, or any other unit for that matter, becomes as attractive as the dollar and the euro. "But this is quite attainable," he said. "We need to use the currency in question in trade settlements and make reserves in that currency."
Russia and France mostly agree on other issues to be tackled in Canada. Medvedev said the two countries had a common outlook on many economic development issues, for both historical and modern reasons. "While our taxes or banking policies may not be 100% the same, we still have similar strategies," Sarkozy said.
We'll die before we retire
The retirement age in Russia will have to be raised, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He did not specify when or by how much. The Pension Fund's budget deficit grows every year, and a change in the retirement age could keep the pension system afloat.
"This is a difficult subject to discuss. It does not matter when we make the decision, in a year's time, two or five years," he said, adding the issue was not on the government's agenda at present.
The retirement age in Russia is lower than in other countries: women retire at 55 and men at 60. Those employed in certain professions (such as miners, pilots, rescue workers and cosmonauts) retire ahead of the statutory age. Taking this into account, the average retirement age is only 54 for men and 52 for women.
Russia uses the pay-as-you-go system, with today's workers paying for today's pensioners. The number of workers is now double the number of pensioners: 70 million against 36 million. But the situation is changing, and by 2031 they may draw level.
Now is not the time for mandatory pension age increases, says presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich: "There has been no discussion or analysis."
It is time to launch a discussion on raising the retirement age, says another member of the Kremlin executive office: "People should get used to the new reality."
The Public Chamber called hearings for Monday on the topic "what should Russia's retirement age be?"
The government has not held any meetings on the subject and has not taken the decision to increase the pension age, says Sofia Malyavina, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development. "But we are already encouraging people to retire at a later age," she said. The package of retirement laws, which came into force in 2010, provides for economic incentives for later retirement.
The Pension Fund's deficit is growing rapidly, even despite an improved social and economic outlook: it will reach 946.4 billion rubles next year and 1.07 trillion rubles in 2012.
Society will agree to an increased retirement age when working pensioners outnumber non-working ones, Dvorkovich believes. Currently, only one-third of pensioners are working, and there is no growth trend: during the crisis, retirement-age people lost their jobs before others.
If the retirement age is to be increased, it will not be before 2014-2015, agree the Pension Fund and the Finance Ministry. The need for a higher retirement age was recognized back in 2000, when it was made part of the development strategy till 2010.
The retirement system has not changed since 1992, and officials are wary of undertaking the step. The risk of a sharp public backlash is too great, experts believe.
Komorowski ahead of Kaczynski in Poland's presidential race
The fifth presidential election in Poland's modern history was held early, on Sunday, June 20, because of the April 10 plane crash that claimed the lives of many of the country's political elite.
Ten candidates are fighting for the post, but the frontrunners are parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski and the late president's twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. According to exit polls, Komorowski is leading the race with 45.7% of the vote, while Kaczynski has only 33.2%.
Will the election's outcome influence relations between Poland and Russia? We put this question to Dr. Adam Eberhardt, Deputy Director of Poland's Centre for Eastern Studies.
He said Poland's main political forces have been interested in changing relations with Russia for 20 years. Even parties that have criticized Russia's policies are expressing an interest in improvement relations, although they differ in their favored approaches.
Current Prime Minister and leader of the liberal conservative party Civic Platform Donald Tusk, was the first to put forth the idea: Speak with Russia as it is now.
Former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the conservative Law and Justice party, has always said he favored better relations with Russia but was also very critical of its policies, in particular toward the post-Soviet space.
Dr. Eberhardt thinks Russia's policies play a key role in Russian-Polish dialogue. A trend for improving relations with Poland began in Russia a year ago, and its authorities have taken several measures to facilitate it.
In particular, Russia set up a commission on difficult problems and promoted political dialogue with Poland. In September 2009, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accepted Tusk's invitation to attend the ceremony commemorating the victims of the Katyn massacre.
At the same time, Poland was blocking any EU effort at rapprochement with Russia.
Dr. Eberhardt said a thaw in relations with Poland is part of Russia's European strategy. He also said that in Poland it is the government that is responsible for the country's foreign policy.
According to the Polish Constitution, the president may only cooperate with the government on issues of international politics. As the head of state, he represents the country abroad, but all issues related to political dialogue are the responsibility of the prime minister, the government and the foreign affairs ministry, the analyst said.
Southern Kyrgyzstan swarming with special units
A state of emergency has been extended until June 25 in Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan, after bloody inter-ethnic clashes last week. Roza Otunbayeva, head of the Kyrgyz interim government, said the situation was under control, and that there would be no more violence.
Local analysts disagree, saying a constitutional referendum, whichmany Kyrgyz citizens oppose, could further destabilize the situation in the Central Asian republic.
Rumors of possible civil unrest are circulating in Bishkek. The people can no longer rely on the government for protection, opting for self-defense instead. A Bishkek businessman said on condition of anonymity that the government did not take any preventive action.
He said nobody was doing anything after the latest clashes. "Professional looters who had ransacked Osh and got away with it are now moving towards the capital. We must take care of our businesses, homes and families," the source told the paper.
The UN estimates that over a million people have been affected by the inter-ethnic conflict to a varying extent. There is a shortage of water, food and medication. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Kyrgyzstan required humanitarian relief aid worth $71 million.
However, the aid is not reaching those affected by the conflict, said Toktayim Umetaliyeva, head of the Association of Non-Governmental and Non-Profit Organizations and a member of the Constitutional Conference.
She said southern Kyrgyzstan was suffering from complete anarchy. "The disunited local governments are unable to reach agreement. The Osh city hall sabotages the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid shipments. In some cases, humanitarian aid is sold at local markets," Umetaliyeva said.
Umetaliyeva is confident that humanitarian aid should not be distributed by state and government agencies.
She said special forces had been deployed in Osh in order to protect the local population. However, this could destabilize the situation because there are many plainclothes soldiers or those wearing uniforms without insignia.
"It is hard to assess their subordination and to see whether they are peacekeepers or looters," Umetaliyeva said. She said the provisional government had discharged armed soldiers, and that it was unclear who now has such weapons, and how they would be used.
Umetaliyeva said the provisional government's current technology and methods of work were unlikely to restore peace and public confidence soon.
Ombudsmen, independent authorities that regulate disputes between organizations, such as suppliers of goods or services, and their clients out of court, exist in most European countries.
More often than not, ombudsmen solve disputes on the securities market, in banking and insurance. Clients can also lodge complaints against lending institutions, insurance and investment companies, insurance brokers, pawnshops, money order services, and persons making currency and broker deals.
The principles upon which this institution acts are as follows: the service is cost-free; complaints can be lodged only after applying to an organization against which you have a grievance; financial organizations must comply with the ombudsman's ruling.
The first CIS country to open an ombudsman's office in 2009 was Armenia. That year the office received 378 complaints, and financial organizations paid more than two million rubles in compensation.
To establish a similar system in Russia, it is also necessary to set up a financial ombudsman's office. It is expected to be based on the German model, according to which the office is not to be a state-governed agency but one established by an association of commercial banks (or with their financial backing) under a multilateral agreement.
This initiative has been put forward by the Association of Regional Banks of Russia. As a third partner has proposed inviting the Association of Lawyers of Russia to add legitimacy to the new structure.
Banks themselves are interested in financial ombudsmen: these can save lending agencies' legal costs in court hearings.
The system will first focus on consumer loans, which make up 90% of court disputes.
In the second phase, the ombudsman will take over deposits, while the number of program participants will increase to 200 or 300 banks.
In the third and final phase, security transactions and trust management services will be added.
The office will function as an open platform that can be joined by all interested lending organizations and other financial intermediaries.
This will enable the ombudsman to solve disputes regardless of the sides' affiliation with a banking association or union.
Given government support, financial ombudsmen can start functioning as early as next year.
(Oleg Ivanov, State Duma's committee expert on the financial market)
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MOSCOW, June 21 (RIA Novosti)