From Russia with love
For millions of my generation, Russia was never considered as a possible destination — until recently. Be it for business, tourism, academic, medical or other purposes, we opted to visit and explore other countries.
The decades-long Cold War with the West, coupled with the language barrier and other cultural factors, kept us distant from Russia. But now the exchange of high-profile official visits by the two countries’ leaderships has ushered in a new era between the nations, with historic milestones in the making.
On his latest official visit to the Kingdom, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of investment contracts worth billions of dollars across a wide variety of sectors.
Before the visit and as a sign of commitment to this country, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, opened its first overseas office in Saudi Arabia. The office will conduct its activities based on ongoing partnerships, mainly with the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), as well as agreements and platforms with key partners from the country.
During Putin’s visit, many memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed between Saudi and Russian firms in the petrochemicals, energy, technology and transportation sectors. MoUs were also agreed between Saudi Railway Co. and its Russia counterpart, and between Saudi Technology Development and Investment Co. (Taqnia) and RDIF for development of a platform to launch satellites and research. Agreements have been signed between King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals and Moscow University for International Relations, and King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center and Moscow School of Management.
Even the agribusiness sector has its share of these new investment trends. The Saudi Arabia Livestock Investment Co. (SALIC) is considering investing in Russian agriculture projects near the Black Sea. Recently, RDIF and SALIC agreed to team up in the search for investment projects in the Russian agricultural sector. SALIC, formed in 2011 to secure food supplies for the Kingdom through mass production and foreign investment, has been looking at expanding in Russia and Ukraine, both major Black Sea grain producers and exporters.
The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has also granted four investment licenses to Russian companies operating in the construction and real estate development, administrative consultancy and information technology sectors.
Arab News readers in my age group will recall the 1963 James Bond movie “From Russia with Love,” starring Sean Connery. Looking back at those days, it is astonishing that we used to view Russia as a distant place to visit, even as a tourist. It is remarkable how things have changed. Now, under Vision 2030, we are witnessing the formation of a strong economic alliance that will bring bilateral investment benefits to both nations.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the Chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.