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Richard Attias

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All Eyes on Vladivostok

Posted: 09/09/2012 10:16 am

This last week, Russia has been in the headlines and in particular Vladivostok, where the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit is occurring. A diverse set of pressing topics are being discussed - the challenges of globalization, the constraints imposed by natural resources, and the various threats to political and economic stability that exist across the world. The summit is being hosted at the brand new Far Eastern Federal University on Russky island.

As a participant at the summit, it's clear to me that the University itself is a symbol of the changing face of Russia. The Far Eastern Federal University (or FEFU, as it's known) aims to become a sort of Harvard of the far east. Its focus is technology - the priority research areas are sustainable development, life sciences, information technology and nanotechnology. Over the past four years, President Putin has invested heavily in the University and has built a new campus, which will be opened during the summit.

Mr. Putin's aspirations for the university are high. This campus will house 25,000 students and its primary purpose is to provide highly trained personnel to work in industries in Vladivostok and the Asia-Pacific region. It marks a major step in supporting innovation and in the modernization of this part of Russia. More specifically, Mr. Putin hopes that the university will soon join the top 300 educational establishments in the world.

It is always a good course of action to invest in education and the structures I have seen here are enormously impressive, but the investment in FEFU is part of an even more ambitious program. The Russian government has poured $20 billion into Vladivostok, improving the infrastructure and building two bridges. The attention has been welcomed by the city, which has a population of just 600,000.

Vladivostok will play host to the leaders of 21 nations from the Pacific Rim, showcasing its new developments and perhaps pointing towards a new emphasis in Russian politics. Mr. Putin recently wrote that the Asia Pacific region is "the most important factor for the successful future of the whole country, as well as development of Siberia and the far east." That's no wonder, since while a plane flight to Moscow takes nine hours, a flight to Japan takes only two.

It's clear to me that this conference represents a pivotal moment for Russia. Not only does it bring transformative investment to the educational sector and to Vladivostok's infrastructure, it also reflects Russia's determination to be a good neighbour and a productive player in the dynamic APEC region.

Of course this new face of Russia should not hide the major issues the country is facing. But as the chairman of PWC Dennis Nally told the conference, to attract Foreign Direct Investment a country should invest highly in infrastructure, in hosting worldwide cultural and sports events, in developing regional integration.

Russia understood that!

 
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