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The Moscow Times: 2010 Work Permit Cuts Planned

23 November 2009

The Moscow Times

The Federal Migration Service said Friday that it would cut the number of job permits available to foreigners next year to just less than 2 million people, down from an initial 3.8 million at the start of 2009, after the economic crisis severely cut demand for foreign labor.

Alexei Lomkin, the service’s director for foreign labor migration, said the initial quota would be 1.3 million, with the rest of the permits available as a reserve, Interfax reported. The 2009 quota — eventually lowered to 2 million people — was only 65 percent fulfilled, he said.

Fyodor Karpovets, the service’s chief in Moscow, said the city would have a quota of 250,000 permits, including a reserve of 80,000. That is down from more than 392,000 permits this year, he said.(MT)

The Moscow Times: A Strong Nation of Lawyers

23 November 2009

By Brian L. Zimbler

Some people hate lawyers. Shakespeare’s Henry VI wanted to “kill all the lawyers,” and Vladimir Lenin advised clients to give their lawyers “hell” and denounce them as scoundrels. In the United States, even children recite anti-lawyer jokes like: “Why won’t a shark attack a lawyer? Professional courtesy.”

Given such attitudes, we lawyers are delighted to see that Russia is bucking the trend. Serious steps are being taken to increase respect for lawyers and even honor them. President Dmitry Medvedev, himself a lawyer, has frequently spoken about the importance of a sound legal system for the country’s future development. Presumably, he expects lawyers to help lead the fight against “legal nihilism” and promote the rule of law.

Last month, the president gave lawyers a special boost, signing an executive order to create an annual Lawyer of the Year prize. It will be awarded on the legal profession’s national day, Dec. 3.

The private sector is doing its part as well. On Friday, a special ceremony was held in Moscow to grant the Corporate Lawyer magazine awards to the best company legal departments in Russia.

These actions make good sense. Russia competes for jobs, contracts and investments with the many countries suffering from the global credit crunch, including Brazil, India and China. To win this competition, Russia must quickly modernize its economy, streamline its overwhelming state bureaucracy and encourage investments in technology and training. Russia’s lawyers should play a key role in these efforts.

Why are lawyers essential for national success? In brief, healthy societies require a level playing field, where the most talented individuals and best companies are able to succeed on merit and the same laws apply to all. This is the real meaning of the often-used expression “rule of law.” Lawyers can facilitate the development of such a society, by helping individuals and companies to protect their property and human rights and ensure fair and equal treatment.

So why are lawyers so often disliked? Some lawyers are overzealous in promoting the interests of their clients. Others are all too willing to bend the rules to win a case for their clients. In business transactions, they raise meaningless objections and “over-lawyer” the documents. Such actions cause nonlawyers to lose faith in the legal system, and they damage the reputation of the legal profession.

Clients as well as lawyers are to blame. The American comedian W.C. Fields once said that if someone asked him for a loan, he would first seek advice from a lawyer, and if he did not like the lawyer’s advice he would find another lawyer. Such attitudes are common.

Lawyers are also used as battering rams to beat up the other side and advance selfish interests rather than to achieve a fair result.

At present, Russia has a good chance of overcoming many of these problems with its relatively new legal system. Substantial progress has been achieved. In less than two decades, the country has adopted a wide range of rules and regulations appropriate to a 21st-century economy.

While the legislative reform process continues, attention should focus on a new goal: winning the hearts and minds of officials, civil servants the business community and ordinary citizens. All of these groups need to embrace the rule of law for Russia to benefit and to overcome the many well-publicized obstacles, such as continuing corruption, remaining gaps in legislation and the like.

Good lawyers can play a key role in this process by doing excellent legal work, setting examples for others, helping to educate the public about legal matters and properly training our own colleagues and personnel.

Having spent more than 20 years working on legal matters in the Soviet Union and Russia, I am proud of the many young Russian lawyers who have worked in my firm. I am confident that they will contribute to the future development of their country. In this context, the president’s Lawyer of the Year award and the other programs being developed to encourage lawyers are welcome and appropriate incentives.

Brian L. Zimbler is the managing partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf, an international law firm in Moscow.

The Moscow Times: The Promising Continent

23 November 2009

By Ruben Vardanian

Last month I visited the 13th Africa Forum in Cape Town, organized by Troika Dialog’s strategic partner Standard Bank. Talking with delegates, I was struck once again by the sheer scale of opportunity that exists in Africa for Russian business, just as Russia becomes an increasingly attractive market for African products.

A complex continent of 53 countries and more than 2,000 languages with historical connections to Europe, Asia and the Americas, Africa’s economy has continued to grow through the financial crisis, albeit at a slower rate than before. Despite the decline of conventional capital flows, innovative solutions such as microfinance, private equity and venture capital have maintained the powerful pace of progress.

To be sure, there is still a lot that has to be done in terms of improving the investment climate and infrastructure as well as easing the overbearing regulatory environment.

President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Africa in June was an important step to shift Russian perceptions of the continent. But it was not just a diplomatic mission. Medvedev was accompanied by 300 businesspeople, inspired to talk to African counterparts about how they can share expertise and resources.

Russia still lags behind its BRIC partners in terms of bilateral trade with Africa, but its trade with Africa is the fastest growing — at 15 percent annually since 1992. Although most other trade partners look to Africa mainly as a source of raw materials, Russia, which is rich in raw materials, can expand its trade relationship to a higher level.

This story is no longer about lackluster investment as a vehicle to plunder Africa of resources. Africa is an enormous potential marketplace for Russian goods and services. It has a population of almost 1 billion people, recognized early by telecoms companies that provided the continent with mobile phone service.

But cooperation is a two-way street. Russia has the high technology to upgrade the African resources industry and the expertise that comes from a century of developing its own natural resources. Africa is already a major exporter of food and iron ore to Russia, with volumes set to soar in coming years.

The lion’s share of Russian investment into the emerging markets has been focused on the Commonwealth of Independent States, but investment in Africa, in particular, is growing fast. This investment is an important factor to develop the continent’s infrastructure, services sector and financial markets.

Education is also critical. An increasing number of African university students are studying in Russia, and leading business schools like the Skolkovo School of Management are preparing future business leaders to work with Africa and other emerging markets.

It’s no longer necessary for trade and investment flows between two emerging markets to take a circuitous route via London or New York. Relationships are direct, and the benefits are felt directly by both parties. I would like to see Russia more connected to the world, and Africa is an excellent place to expand Russia’s role as a leading economic power.

Ruben Vardanian is chairman of the board of directors and CEO of Troika Dialog Group and president of the Skolkovo School of Management.
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