Vedomosti: Putin expected to alleviate pension reform

Russian President Vladimir Putin may draw a line in the sand on Russia’s pension reform, which has been under debate for the past three months. Putin, a retired military officer himself, will make public his view on the proposed amendments to the country’s pension legislation on Wednesday, Vedomosti writes.

The pension reform is expected to tackle the issue of Russia’s ageing population. There is a record number of people in Russia aged 65 and over, they account for 27% of the working age population. According to expert estimates, the reform package will reduce the number of pensioners to 31 mln by 2034.

It is unknown yet what exactly the president will say in his televised address. However, experts interviewed by the paper said he is highly likely to mitigate the terms of the reform. The proposals concerning the pension reform include preserving tax benefits for those who were supposed to retire and raising the retirement age for women to 60 years instead of 63, as proposed earlier.

For the budget until 2024, the proposed retirement age, for example, 60 for women or 63 for men, is of little importance, according to Yuri Gorlin, Deputy Director of the Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. All the money saved will be spent on pension hikes. If inflation increases or the economy slows down, more funds will be required from the federal budget, he noted.

It will be quite logical for Putin to close the chapter on increasing the retirement age, says political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko. The first round of promoting the reform, which occurred prior to that, was clearly not enough. Then came the president’s first “psychotherapeutic” speech highlighting the need for public discussion. It culminated in public hearings in the lower house of parliament, and now Putin will sum up its results. This will happen just after the end of the regional election campaign, in which the United Russia will be seen as a political force, which worked towards minimizing the damage, the expert concluded.


Kommersant: Iranian leader headed towards impeachment

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been unable to persuade lawmakers that the government’s efforts to overcome the economic crisis triggered by Washington’s sanctions are effective, even though he vowed that Tehran would tackle all issues. Iran’s cities have been rocked by protests sparked by price hikes and unemployment. The situation deteriorated after the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and slapped fresh sanctions on Tehran. As a result, the parliament is discussing impeachment proceedings against the president, Kommersant writes.

“Members of Iran’s Majlis are searching for those guilty to justify themselves in the eyes of the voters. However, it is clear to everyone who is familiar with Iran’s political system that the president’s resignation will not bring a solution to economic problems,” Yulia Sveshnikova, Research Fellow at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper.

According to the expert, Iran is on the verge of economic collapse. According to unofficial data, the unemployment rate is over 30% rather than 11%, as officials say.

Sveshnikova noted that the country is in dire need of profound structural reforms, adding that some conservative officials who actually influence the country’s life fail to realize the scale of the disaster and believe that everything will remain as it was.

She stressed though that it is hard to say at the moment whether US President Donald Trump’s dreams of a revolution in Iran will come true. “Those who have nothing to lose are taking to the streets, while the middle class is thinking about fleeing the country. As people in Iran say, if there is no bread tomorrow, there will be a revolution,” she stressed.


Izvestia: Moldova to face mounting protests, president warns

The standoff between Moldova’s pro-European forces can destabilize the situation in the country in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, Moldovan President Igor Dodon told Izvestia.

“I believe it is obvious that, as the parliamentary elections approach, all parties, both left-wing and right-wing, will step up their protest activities. What is happening at this stage is a standoff between the pro-European opposition and the pro-European party in power. The left-wing political parties, such as the Party of Socialists, decided not to interfere, and that was the right thing to do. Let the right-wing parties fight each other, the more so since the leaders of the protest rallies are former partners who until recently had been represented in the government together with the ruling party,” Dodon said.

He described the recent protests in Moldova as a dangerous trend, which poses a threat to domestic stability. “On the one hand, there were pro-European opposition forces, and, on the other, small parties, which joined the protests to incite them. They are trying to destabilize the situation ahead of the parliamentary elections. It is apparent that both the right-wing pro-European and opposition pro-European parties will lose the upcoming elections. Society is dissatisfied, and people are ready to vote for the only alternative, that is, the Party of Socialists. These demonstrations play into the hands of both the pro-European opposition and the party in power,” Dodon explained.

The Moldovan president reaffirmed his plans to visit to Russia in October despite the current political climate in his country, adding that the migrant problem, economic issues and Transnistria would top the agenda of his negotiations in Moscow.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tougher sanctions against Russia may backfire on US, experts warn

The United States is unlikely to slap sanctions on foreign trade in energy resources with respect to Russia, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta said. “That would be tantamount to putting the final nail in the coffin of stabilizing bilateral relations and a high probability of losing the geopolitical support of Washington’s key strategic partner, Europe,” said Ilya Zharsky, Managing Partner of the Veta expert group.

The expert recalled that whereas Iran sent at least 2 mln barrels of oil per day to the market during the peak production period, Russia exports at least 5 mln barrels per day. “With Russia remaining the biggest oil producer, its share in the global market ranges from 13% to 15%. If Russia’s oil is sanctioned, a shortage will emerge in the world market pretty soon, which will result in a massive energy and economic crisis, which is going to impact primarily oil-importing countries,” the expert stressed.

As for natural gas supplies, Russia’s Gazprom provides over 36% of the total supply. If Russian gas supplies to the European market are discontinued, this could result in an energy and economic collapse for Europe, and supplies of liquefied natural gas cannot remedy the situation,” he cautioned.

“If Russia, for some reason, stops exporting oil to Europe and shifts its exports focus to Asian markets, it will be very difficult for Europe to find a substitute for an exporter such as Russia,” Natalia Milchakova, Deputy Director of Alpari’s Analytical Department, stressed, adding that oil prices would certainly skyrocket. “In that case $200 per barrel and even more are guaranteed. Likewise, gasoline prices will rise around the globe, and that would hurt consumers, especially in the US,” she added.


Izvestia: Russian pharma exports see 11% increase in first half of 2018

Russian pharmaceutical producers sold almost 19,000 tonnes of goods abroad to the tune of more than 20 mln rubles ($297,000) in the first six months of this year. In physical terms that amounts to an 11% rise, while in the ruble equivalent it is an 8% year-on-year increase, Izvestia writes citing data provided by Russia’s Federal Customs Service.

The bulk of pharmaceutical products (in monetary terms) is delivered to Ukraine, with the revenue in the first six months of this year amounting to $60.6 mln. Kazakhstan ($52.9 mln) and Belarus ($45 mln) rank second and third respectively.

Russian goods are attractive primarily because of their price-to-quality ratio, according to Nikolai Bespalov, a pharmaceutical market expert at RNC Pharma. “Russian manufacturers pay particular attention to the quality of their products, often shrugging off the marketing side of the issue. The bulk of the money is spent on improving the quality, while abroad a lot of money is spent on marketing and advertising. This, in turn, affects drug prices,” he pointed out.

The quality of domestic pharmaceutical products is better than in many countries, says Dmitry Morozov, CEO of the BIOCAD biotechnology company. In most cases, it meets ICH and GMP international standards. The domestic companies are currently capable of boosting their production capacities to such an extent that, in the coming decade, Russia will be able to do without foreign drugs and supply its goods to overseas markets, the paper quotes Yelena Nevolina, Head of the Pharmacy Guild, as saying.

The pharmaceutical industry is one of Russia’s most dynamically developing branches. The share of domestic drugs in the market has more than tripled over the past five years – from 13.2% in 2012 to 46.9% in 2017. According to the DSM marketing research group, sales of domestic medicines increased 4.3% in physical terms last year, while sales of imported medicines grew by a mere 2.3%.


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