Expropriation of Market Relations in Russia?

The market revived convulsively after the convulsive reduction

Yukos's CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in jail, the court is to rule his fate now. Such things have happened before with the people of larger scale and larger influence. The world has not turned over because of that. It goes without saying that the arrest of Yukos's control stocks has frightened domestic and foreign businessmen who had plans about the Russian natural wealth. They were even more frightened, when they learnt about the search in the office of the Novosibirsk-based energy company Novosibirskenergo (regional branch company of RAO UES of Russia). Probably, Anatoly Chubais has regretted his hasty offer to place Alexander Voloshin in a job (the former head of the presidential administration). Yet, some personas have always been replacing others and life still continues.

The Russian stock market has had a very nervous reaction to Khodorkovsky's arrest. The stocks of Russia's largest companies have become cheaper. The Office of the Russian Prosecutor General has assured the business community that the confiscation of Yukos's stocks for the benefit of the state is out of the question. The court will investigate everything. Why does the state need the control shareholding? It would imply incredible responsibility, large costs and painstaking cares. A blocking shareholding would be enough: every important decision would have to be coordinated with the government in this case. The top management could also be loyal to the profile ministry - it would be the new kind of the state control. Private shareholders are still free to invest, govern and gain profit as much as they want, but there will be a certain framework created for them. Of course, investors understand it.

After President Putin talked to a group of foreign investors, the hysterics settled down and the stock market started reviving. The Russian government has promised to cancel the restriction for foreigners to acquire the stocks of the Russian monopolist Sberbank. The liberalization of Gazprom's market is to start in the nearest future too. Foreign investors have been dreaming about it for years.

Yesterday, the Russian stocks gained 4.5 percent in price at the stock section of the Moscow Inter-Bank Currency Exchange (MICEX). Yukos's stocks added 6.32 percent. The quotations of other companies' stocks raised 4.5 percent in value. RAO UES of Russia increased by 4.44 percent, LUKoil - by 3.94 percent, Rostelecom - by 5.82 percent, Surgutneftegaz - by 6.48 percent, Sberbank raised by 4.6 percent, Norkickel - by 5.86%, Tatneft - by 4.17%, Sibneft - by 3.55%.

The market revived convulsively after the convulsive reduction, which was definitely not an objective factor. The cost of Yukos's stocks in London, for example, dropped by 4.16% yesterday. Vladimir Putin has promised investors that Yukos will be preserved as a company. However, foreign investors are extremely serious about everything that is related to business. Foreign media outlets believe that the scandal with Yukos will cost billions of dollars to Russia. Probably, it is true. Yet, it does not mean that the Kremlin officials are absolutely unaware of what they are doing. Maybe, they know all about it. Those billions may simply be "sacrificed" to History and Development in order to save the state from a bigger trouble - another economic crisis, the loss of the economic independence, the collapse of the state and the foreign occupation. Who knows?

Governmental officials and their analysts are currently tracing every indication of the country's economic growth. They are being very careful about it, taking into consideration the fact that the national economic is not doing well at present. Analysts of the World Economic Forum have registered Russia's serious economic degradation. According to the results of 2002, the Russian economy took the 64th place among the countries of the world on the competitive ability. The current year is not over yet, but Russia is already on the 70th place. Needless to mention that the situation cannot be improved without the interference of the state.

The top management of a large company takes care of the company's success. The market success leads to better profit for businessmen and their personal offshore bank accounts. In Russia, this success is usually achieved with cheating the state, impoverishing the population, taking over smaller companies. As a result, the profit of two or three companies grows, but the national economy worsens.

The oil company Sibneft has recently published its probably last US GAAP report for the first six months of 2003. The effect was very surprising: Sibneft left Yukos far behind although it had been taken over by Yukos. However, analysts explained the Sibneft's success with the "virtuosity" of its accountants. As it turned out, Sibneft's efficient sales tax rate during the mentioned period made up five percent, but the basic rate of that tax in Russia is 24 percent. Any American or European businessman can only dream about such working conditions. Yet, it is obvious that such incidents will not be allowed to happen more in Russia. Is there anything bad or illegal about such an approach?

Western media have been writing about the start of the large-scale nationalization in Russia - journalists believe that special services will be controlling everything. The state is not expropriating market relations at all. Probably, the ruling layer of the Russian society is drawing closer to the state again.

Boris Yeltsin has recently reminded that Vladimir Putin is a successor. The statement implies the succession of policy and interests. Although, interests may change depending on objective reasons. It does not mean the end of democracy and the free market.

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Author`s name Olga Savka