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Vladimir Poutine veut développer le secteur high-tech et l'offshore programming russe

Source Moscowtimes

President Vladimir Putin has announced ambitious plans to develop the high-tech sector with tax incentives for investors in special economic zones, saying the country "must not miss this chance" to catch up with its competitors in international markets.

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In comments apparently aimed at deflecting criticism from investors over slipping GDP targets and increased state reliance upon and control over the oil industry, he also conceded that his government had failed to diversify the economy away from raw materials exports.

"We all know that diversification of the economy is one of the priority tasks," Putin told a government meeting dedicated to promoting IT and manufacturing late Tuesday in Akademgorodok, a scientific center near the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.

"The need to do away with too much dependence of our economy on raw materials is obvious. ... Unfortunately, not much has been done to implement this task," he said, Itar-Tass reported.

The comments appeared to be an attempt to heal recent divisions within the government, after both presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov and Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref had voiced opposition to Kremlin policy over the effective renationalization of Yukos' main production unit, Yuganskneftegaz.

Putin said up to technology parks in 10 special economic zones would be created as "fully fledged market projects" by 2010 with tax breaks and reduced customs duties on imported equipment for high-tech companies.

While calling for the technology parks to learn from the experience of other countries' modern IT industries, such as India's, Putin also harked back to the Soviet past, saying the new high-tech projects should draw on methods used at Akademgorodok and other Soviet-era scientific institutes.

"Several decades ago, models of integrating education, science and production in a single territorial complex were developed," he said.

Putin also called for the "modernization of professional education," and for stronger legal protection on intellectual property rights.

IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, speaking at the Akademgorodok meeting, said the state would invest 18 billion rubles ($644 million) into the IT sector over the next five years, and that this would enable Russia to be among the world's top 10 countries in IT by 2010.

"As result of the program's realization, the volume of IT market will grow to $40 billion, while high-tech manufacturing will take a 5 percent share of GDP," Reiman said.

Russian revenues from IT outsourcing totaled just $500 million in 2003, according to IT Ministry data. The total global IT market is estimated to be worth $915 billion, of which Russia controls just 0.2 percent.

"The state must demonstrate long-term interest in this sphere and hence provide a stimulus for investment," Reiman said.

During a visit to India last month, Putin paid special attention to India's successful IT industry, which now controls more than one-fifth of the world's IT outsourcing market.

During the visit, Reiman, who accompanied Putin on the trip, predicted that Russia's IT sector would grow to $10 billion by 2010. It was unclear Wednesday why the forecast had been quadrupled in just over a month.

Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko told the meeting that interest from the state in the high-tech sector would serve as a beacon to the private sector.

"It will be a signal to the business community that the state cares, since nobody believes in just words these days," he said, Interfax reported.

Gref, the economic development and trade minister, sad that a draft bill to create special economic zones for high-tech manufacturing would be submitted to the Cabinet by March 1.

He said that production facilities in the special economic zones would be built from scratch and would be 100 percent state-owned. The zones would be managed by a governing body including "representatives of all branches of the authorities," Gref said, Interfax reported.

High-tech companies working in the zones would have to undergo tax inspections once every three years, and could face sanctions, including revocation of their residency in the zone, he said.

Gref also said that no customs duties would be levied on imported equipment and parts if the final product is manufactured for export.

Further tax breaks are likely to include lower property and profit taxes, Gref said. The profit tax could be as low as 25 percent of the standard taxation rate, he said. For zones specializing in technical innovations, a reduced rate of Unified Social Tax is also planned.

Gref said that, initially, regional governments would be able to bid for tenders on a limited number of zones.

"For now we are going to stop at six, since each zone will require $100 million to $150 million in investment over three years," Gref was quoted by Interfax as saying. It was unclear Wednesday from where regional governments would raise the investment funds.

Gref's ministry estimated the program could attract between $3 billion and $5 billion in foreign investment by 2010, while Reiman's ministry said the IT sector could help boost GDP growth to the 7.5-8 percent per year needed to double GDP by 2010.

Likely candidates to host the special economic zones are the Moscow region, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Novosibirsk, which all have science and technology research institutes.

The country's high-tech sector was particularly badly hit in the economic upheavals of the 1990s, with research centers and institutes teetering on the edge of collapse for over a decade due to woeful underfunding, and their staffs often forced to survive on a combination of foreign grants and moonlighting. Others have simply changed professions or emigrated.

Investment into new technology has also been painfully slow, as neither the developing private sector nor the cash-strapped state has been able to foot the bill.

The government's plans, however, were greeted with some skepticism by analysts, who said they appeared to rely on heavy state intervention in the sector, which could undermine the entire effort altogether.

"Only when the state recognizes that it cannot artificially choose which parts of the economy do well and which parts don't, will the economy start to grow at the rate it should," said Roland Nash, chief strategist at Renaissance Capital.

The main problem is "that there is too much state activity in the economy," Nash said. "That's why Russia is unlikely to achieve its goal of doubling GDP. The state saying it should not be oil and gas, but technology, is the wrong way to go about it."

Jan 14, 2005

janvier 17, 2005 in Externalisation, Offshore programming, Outsourcing, Russie, CEI | Permalink

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