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The agreement between International World Group and National Ocean Technology Center

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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International World Group (IWG), the new and already well- established company founded by Giancarlo Elia Valori has signed a very important Agreement with China’s National Ocean Technology Center (NOTC). This is the result of the great attention that President Xi Jinping  and  his  Minister  of  Energy  Resources,  Lu  Hao  – leading a vast and powerful Department that brings together six previous Ministries  –  have   always   paid   to   the environmental and green transformation of the entire Chinese economy.

This is the President  Xi Jinping’s policy line, which goes hand in hand with the project that acts as the nervous system of this policy line, namely the New Silk Road.

Abundant and clean energy, as well as expansion, in a win- win logic, to make the great expansion of the future Chinese economy  outside  its  natural  borders  possible  and economically rational.

So outlined, the Agreement between the IWG and the Chinese National Ocean Technology Center seems to be yet another important business news, which hits the headlines of the most important global business media.

Indeed, this agreement is much more than that.

The Rome-based IWG led by President Valori has long been operating as one of the most important companies in the transfer of renewable energy technologies.

In this case, the cutting-edge technologies concern the energy produced  by  the  waves  and  tides  of  the  Chinese  marine system.

It should be considered that currently 40% of the world’s population already lives within 100 kilometres from the sea and the great oceans.

If we study the issue with the mathematical model called Simulating Waves Nearshore (SWAN), we can see that for the South Pacific coasts this model predicts the possible existence of energy hotspots, every 5 kilometers from the shores and with depths of no more than 22 meters.

This means that every ocean, and especially the Pacific, has a stable overabundance of energy that can be extracted from waves, currents and tides.

The sea kinetic energy, inevitably cyclical and eternal for geographical  reasons  and  for  the  cycle  of  terrestrial  and cosmic motions, is divided into four main categories of “extraction”, if we can still use this word.

Electric  currents  are  extracted  with  energy  converters,  or with energy extractors from tides, but also with thermal converters, and finally with new technologies, which mainly use the differences in the salt gradient between sea and inland waters. In  general  terms,  with  all  these  technologies  over  7,550 Gigawatts can be extracted throughout the world by the end of 2050 without causing any environmental damage.

That is already a lot.

It is also a quantity already higher than the maximum peak of the current US energy consumption.

Interestingly, with sea renewable energy, we can save over 5 trillion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

In Ravenna, Italy, ENI has already started to operate the Inertial Sea Waves Converter (ISWEC), designed to extract at least 50 GW from the sea cyclic movements.

Again in Italy, a joint venture is underway between ENI, Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, TERNA and  Fincantieri for the construction of sea energy production systems, but on an industrial and mass level.

With the agreement reached between IWG and the Chinese NOCT we are going far beyond.

The Nanjing-based research company is at the forefront in optimising energy structures and in analysing the ecological and production aspects of the new sea energy extraction stations.

In Europe, and especially in Italy, we have already invented energy and marine technologies that could be very interesting for the Chinese people.

Italy, together with Scandinavia, is a European and global leader in this field of research and applications.

Moreover, in the EU, these technologies will already be economically profitable by the end of 2050, i.e. in the near future.

Great Britain, for example, has a tidal energy potential of at least 18 TWh, which is an excellent level, while currently in Italy 18.3% of energy consumption is already “green”, with a rather good share of renewables from the sea, i.e. 11%, but in 2020.

Chinese scientists think that China can extract as many as 8.2 GW, especially from the Zhoushan Islands and the Province of Zhejiang, without undermining the coastal environmental balance.

However, there are over fifty global projects currently operational for the world’s extraction of electricity from tidal energy.

In Europe, in principle, almost all countries are shifting towards the technology of horizontal axis turbines, which is the sea parallel of wind turbines.

There are also the “Point Absorbers”, which use the vertical wave motion and, as a class of advanced generators, we have the oscillating wave surge converters. Finally there are the attenuators, i.e. floating systems that operate with special pumps inside them.

There is also a small structure, developed by the University of Pisa, which consists of a device placed on the bottom of the sea and a mobile system that follows the wave cycle.

We have many fully submerged latest generation converters, or systems consisting of a moving mass that, connected to a generator, is installed inside a hull, to acquire the energy from pitching and rolling movements.

We also have at our disposal the technologies that operate through the hydrogen electrolysis, an Italian pilot-project that currently uses a 500 KW similar system, already anchored in the Strait of Messina.

In Italy the areas already covered by energy from the sea movement cycle – however, only partly – are already quite large.

They stretch from the cities in the Marches Region, now electrified with a 24% share of energy from marine motion, to the Umbria Region, which is landlocked, and the area in the Province of La Spezia.

The production cost of tidal energy is the lowest among similar costs in the field of renewable energy.

The equipment depreciation cost is often lower than the cost of wind or solar energy.

Normally, the generator is placed on a floating surface, which is connected by cables to the bottom of the sea.

There are five buoys connected to the cables, which contain electrical systems and advanced sensors to connect to as many as four turbines, which operate just below sea level. Low environmental invasiveness is a typical feature of all these technologies.

In addition to full renewability, this is what really matters.

We should also recall the actions taken by the China National Renewable Energy Center, together with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), for the 30-year programme  aimed  at  completely  eliminating  the  energy carbon production in the Zhangjiakou area.

In China, in 2018, there was a large investment to the tune of 79 RMB for just two demonstration systems of energy from the sea cycle.

There was also the reaction of an energy structure using desalination,  which  was  installed  on  the  Wanshan  Island, using the technology called Sharp Eagle, i.e. a semi- submersible system that can be anchored or submerged to produce tidal energy.

In the case of Wanshan, it is a 36-metre system with a width of 24 metres and a 16-metre high wave converter.

All this shows that it is a powerful structure of about 120 kW, but extremely manageable and with very little environmental impact.

It dates back to 2015, but it is completely autonomous for energy production and distribution.

With a view to improving sea energy production, the European universities and, above all, the one in Turin, with which we have long been cooperating, have identified three optimisation lines of action: a) turbines that work in both directions  of  the  currents  induced  by  tides;  b)  turbines installed under floats, but without exposing the machines to storms; c) turbines attached to cables, as it was designed for the devices and equipment in the Strait of Messina.

There are even completely new concepts in the design phase, such as the possibility of exploiting the energy from currents by means of rubber “eel-shaped structures”, which produce electricity from their wave motion, or systems which imitate, under  water,  the  sails  or  the  fish  fins,  thus  optimizing electricity production also in this case.

There are also mechanisms that exploit the energy from the waves hitting a concrete barrier, so as to pump air that moves a turbine and produces electricity.

Such  an  experiment,  already  in  operation  in  the  port  of

Civitavecchia, seems to be working very well.

Dimemo, a wave impact energy production system in the port of Naples, also works very well.

We also have new membranes of polymers that produce electricity bending upon the thrust of waves, or of tubes that are compressed at the bottom by the passage of sea motions.

A pendulum, designed by the University of Turin, has long been   operational,   which   moves   a   generator,   oscillating together with the waves.

We  also  need  to  recall  the “H24”  designed  by  the  Pisan mathematician Michele Grassi, which operates on depths between 6 and 12 meters.

The waves move a parallelepiped, which is connected to an alternator.

Already tested in front of Marina di Pisa in 2015, it was perfected by the company of Grassi himself.

There is also a problem with the energy absorption of transport networks, an issue in which we are particularly interested and in relation to which we can develop innovative and effective projects.

Hence, with this MoU we establish a first, but fundamental, relationship between China and International World Group, together with some remarkable sovereign funds, to improve energy production, the environment, health and the economy of the whole China. It is a great source of pride for us.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Economy

Why Wealthy Countries Must Step Up Their Contribution to Fight Global Poverty

Ferid Belhaj

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Member countries of the International Development Association (IDA), a part of the World Bank Group, are meeting shortly to discuss the 19th replenishment of IDA, which will set the agenda for assistance to the poorest developing countries for the three-year period starting in July 2020. Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia contributed funds for the 18th replenishment for IDA, which covers the period July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020. It is critical that these countries — and others in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region who could potentially contribute — sustain and increase their presence and participation in this important international forum and support a global public good.

This coming IDA replenishment is an opportunity for MENA countries to make their contribution and presence felt. Starting in 2020, MENA will be the epicentre of several global discussions and events: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 members, Egypt is the chair of the African Union, the first World Expo in the region will be held in Dubai, the 2021 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings will take place in Marrakech, and the region will see its first soccer World Cup in Doha in 2022. While these events are significant in their own right, a substantially higher financial contribution from MENA countries to IDA will demonstrate the region’s capacity to lead on long-term global challenges such as poverty reduction, inclusive growth, and climate change.

IDA was created in 1960 to provide ‘soft-loans’ — grant funding, concessional loans, debt relief — to the poorest developing countries who could not afford to borrow on the terms that could be offered by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). IDA has become one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 77 poorest countries and the foremost instrument to channel multilateral funding where it is needed the most and in the quickest and most efficient way possible. There is no bigger source of donor funds for basic services in these countries.

Since 1960, IDA has provided almost $400 billion for investments in over 100 countries. IDA’s support has paved the way toward equality, economic growth, job creation, higher incomes, and better living conditions. IDA’s work covers primary education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate improvements, infrastructure, and institutional reforms. More recently, IDA has intervened in a big way to bring hope to people affected by conflict and violence, including in the MENA region. Of course, IDA is now prioritizing investments to deal with the worst impacts of climate change.

Since 2000, IDA has provided more than $88 billion in financial assistance to Arab and Muslim countries. In IDA18, more than 50% of the resources were allocated to 28-member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali are among the biggest beneficiaries of IDA. In the MENA region, Djibouti, Syria, and Yemen are IDA beneficiaries.

In Yemen, through its many contributions, IDA has played a critical role to provide relief and mitigate the long-lasting impacts of the country’s tragic conflict. Quite literally, IDA has saved lives! It has helped Yemenis fight diseases and famine. IDA helped train nearly 12,000 health personnel and immunize 6.9 million children (five million of them under 5 years old). Through an emergency program, IDA has helped ensure around 9 million vulnerable Yemenis have access to food and other basic necessities.

In Djibouti, from 2014–18, IDA provided essential services to 1.9 million people. Thousands of pregnant and lactating women, adolescent girls, and children under age 5 benefited from basic nutrition services. During the same period, over 24,000 women gave birth attended by a qualified health practitioner, up from just 1,000. IDA also helped immunize 78% of children before their first birthday in 2018, up from 33% in 2012.

The conflict in Syria, now into its eighth year, continues to take a heavy toll on the life of Syrian people and on the Syrian economy. The death toll in Syria directly related to the conflict as of early 2016 is estimated to be between 400,000 (UN, Apr 2016) and 470,000 (Syrian Center for Policy Research, Feb 2016), with many more injured, and lives upheaved. The conflict has internally displaced about 6.2 million people, including 2.5 million children. Over 5.6 million are officially registered as refugees (UNHCR, 2019). In Lebanon, IDA is helping the country enrol 200,000 Syrian children in public schools. In Jordan, IDA assistance is creating 100,000 jobs for Jordanian nationals and Syrian refugees.

Beyond the MENA region, from the conflict ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo to the earthquake affected Pakistan, or from Haiti and Nepal to Tajikistan and Myanmar, IDA is a strong development partner for the poorest countries. Building on its experience of supporting Syrian refugees and host communities, IDA has helped reintegrate displaced people in more than 10 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Niger, and Pakistan.

International institutions, of which IDA is a recognized leader, remain important for some of the most lagging regions and communities in the world. Independent assessments have documented the tremendous benefits of IDA’s support for the development of poor countries. Many people are unaware that countries such as China, India, and South Korea were beneficiaries of IDA assistance in the past, but now they have become donors giving back to the international community.

Institutions like IDA deserve our utmost support because when misfortune strikes countries, the knowledge and financial resources of institutions such as IDA can save, protect, and nurture lives. These institutions can provide ideas for development strategies and funds for critical infrastructure. To eliminate extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity, institutions like IDA are a valuable ally for governments and citizens.

The World Bank Group is grateful for generous financial contributions to IDA from the international donor community. However, I believe that the more fortunate MENA countries can and must enhance their contribution to IDA. Some countries in the MENA region are among the wealthiest in the world. Their good fortune presents an opportunity for the MENA region to take on a leadership role in this important forum. It is also a wonderful opportunity to help those in need, which is fully in line with the region’s rich history of generosity towards the less fortunate.

IDA has a critical global mission — and its successes to date are only possible because of the generosity of its members. More substantial financial contributions to IDA are good for MENA’s standing in the international community. It is also the right thing to do.

 World Bank

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Economy

BRICS countries deem a single crypto currency

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Speaking on the sidelines of the BRICS summit, which took place in Brazil in mid-November, President of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev came up with a proposal to create a common crypto currency for servicing a unified payment system of the member countries. According to RBC, the idea of a unified payment system has already received the backing of the BRICS Business Council. The parties concerned held a heated discussion on the possibility of using a single digital currency for conducting payments.

Virtual currencies or crypto currencies, and the blockchain technology that underlies them have been major trends in the information technology market since the early 2010s. Experts deem the blockchain technology as revolutionary: we are talking about a distributed electronic database (a register, ledger), in which each “cell” contains information about all others. Cryptographic methods are used to ensure the functioning and protection of the “register”. Such characteristics of block chain technology as its distributed decentralized nature and the availability of information about all transactions make it useful in those areas of business where many participants are involved who are not able to verify the credibility of counterparties. Resources transferred via a blockchain cannot be blocked (or arrested), even temporarily, by anyone except their owner. Meanwhile, what remains a major problem of all private and corporate crypto currency projects is their credibility.

If a digital currency is issued by the state or a community of states, then most, if not all, problems private crypto currencies are faced with are solvable. In this case, the advantages of Bitcoin and the underlying block chain technology are preserved, while the risks, such as the anonymity and simplicity of uncontrolled cross-border operations, which evoke the anxiety of authorities around the world, are neutralized. The issue of crypto currency would make it possible for the authorities to assume control of the technology that can otherwise reinforce global speculators, and even, according to critics, undermine the very existence of states in their classical format.

Meanwhile, many capitals have been keeping a close eye on the growing concern of the US authorities over the prospect of a global spread of crypto currencies. Washington’s major fears are that the “foes of America,” be it states or non-state entities, will be able to create a financial network independent of the US dollar. In this case, the United States would lose the most important instrument of  non-military pressure that it uses to influence its opponents.

At present, more than 85 percent of all currency exchange transactions are made in dollars. All Washington has to do to block unwanted financial transactions is just  add suspicious individuals, organizations or states to the “black list” which is sent to all banks in the world. For fear of falling under sanctions or losing the ability to make payments in dollars, the overwhelming majority of financial institutions have until now been following the instructions of the American authorities. In May this year, Republican Brad Sherman submitted a bill which proposes to ban US citizens from buying or selling crypto currency. In July, a number of Congressmen from the Democratic Party drafted a bill that prohibits online platforms and social networks with an annual income of at least $ 25 billion from providing financial services and issuing crypto currencies. According to commentators, the authors of both bills make no secret of the fact that their initiatives are motivated by by geopolitical considerations. For one, Congressman Sherman argued during the hearings: “Crypto currencies must be nipped in the bud also because the lion’s share of our international influence is based on the fact that the dollar is the standard of the international financial system. For oil and other transactions, it is vital that they be cleared by the federal reserve … Crypto currencies undermine our international policy … ”.

According to RT columnist Max Keiser, an ever more number of countries are beginning to understand what influence the United States has on other states only because the dollar is the principal currency for commercial and intergovernmental settlements. In addition to gaining profit from the dominant role of the dollar in international trade, Washington possesses levers of influence that affect the policies of most countries through sanctions or threat of sanctions and are beyond the reach of anyone else. Keiser deems sanctions as an “act of aggression,” because, in his opinion, the dollar has long turned into a weapon. Not surprisingly, countries that value their sovereignty are looking for ways to minimize or completely neutralize America’s ability to exert pressure through denial of dollar transactions. Before the arrival of crypto currencies, gold was a major protective shield. Nowadays, national digital currencies are considered  a new powerful tool, devoid of many shortcomings of gold in terms of everyday use.

Given the circumstances, as reported by one of the most authoritative Russian resources in the field of crypto currencies, DeCenter, all BRICS members are either on the point of issuing digital fiat money, “or are looking into such a possibility.”  The BRICS countries are thereby following the global trend as the prospect of issuing digital currencies by central banks, the Central bank digital currency (CBDC), has been attracting the attention of governments in an increasing number of countries. On November 26, Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis spoke about plans of the European Union to launch a EU digital currency by the end of 2021. One of the problems that could be solved with the help of such a system, according to ECB Board member Benoit Kere, is putting an end to Europe’s dependence on US-based international payment services, such as MasterCard, Visa, Apple, PayPal and Amazon.

What could serve as an example for the rest of the BRICS members is the position of Beijing, which has changed its attitude to crypto currencies by “180 degrees” over the past few months. According to Leonid Kovachich of the Moscow-based Carnegie Center, “President Xi Jinping refers to blockchain as a breakthrough technology, while major Chinese media outlets are  talking at length  about the benefits of blockchain and urge the community not to miss the historic opportunity to challenge the global hegemony of the dollar.”

This fall, representatives of the People’s Bank of China said they were “considering the possibility of launching a digital yuan at an early date.” President of the Digital Currency Development Center of the Central Bank of China Mu Changchun has identified the basic criteria for issuing the crypto currency of the PRC. “CryptoYuan will not function only on the basis of blockchain, the issue will proceed in two stages: from the Central Bank to commercial banks and then into further circulation.” The digital yuan will replace the M0 aggregate, while the processing capacity of the payment system will be “up to 300 thousand transactions per second”. As an official currency, the digital yuan will be issued on a centralized basis and regulated by the government. The digital yuan is set to incorporate the best characteristics of crypto currencies, including minimum transaction time, “reliability, invariability and irreversibility”, and fiat money – its sovereignty and liquidity guarantees.

The fact that the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance are considering the possibility of introducing crypto currency in Russia was reported by Kommersant back in 2016. In June 2017, Deputy Chairperson of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation Olga Skorobogatova announced prospects for launching a national digital currency. Skorobogatova said Central Bank specialists had started work on a digital ruble project. Similarly to the digital yuan, it is assumed that the issue of the Russian virtual currency will be strictly regulated, its exchange for rubles and other currencies will be possible only on special electronic platforms and the identity of the crypto currency buyer will have to be established. According to DeCentre, the draft law on digital financial assets (DFA) was adopted by the State Duma in the first reading in 2018. However, amendments have been made and continue to be made since then, also regarding the very definition of crypto currency. 

Russian experts view the digital ruble as one of the options to respond to  the intensifying Western sanctions. As Iran’s disconnection from the SWIFT banking system at the request of the United States demonstrated, the creation of an interbank payment system that can replace SWIFT is “of paramount importance for the BRICS countries”. As an instrument for conducting mutual payments in such a system, the central banks could issue a limited volume of digital currency and all transactions in this currency will be registered in a single register and will be verified by agents appointed by the authorities of the BRICS countries. The use of a common crypto currency would make such a payment system universal and would safeguard payments against foreign sanctions.

In this respect, at the initial stage, the BRICS digital currency may not become a  payment instrument in the full sense of the word. A couple of years ago, Russian venture investor Evgeny Gordeev called for launching a government program to attract investments and ensuring the safety of capital at the blockchain level. Technically, such an investment mechanism would enable Russia’s foreign partners interested in investing in Russian assets to avoid the legal consequences of the sanctions that have been imposed on the Russian Federation in recent years. A member of the State Duma’s expert panel, Nikita Kulikov, believes that a common crypto currency that is currently being considered by BRICS experts could become a means of “fixating obligations”, a conversion tool, and an instrument to ensure the “autonomy of interstate remittances”.

Thus, as experts continue to speculate about the extent to which crypto currencies are capable of revolutionizing the entire system of financial relations, the changes that have occurred in the economic and monetary policies of some of the world’s leading states in recent years demonstrate that they are beginning to take crypto currencies more and more seriously regarding them as a useful tool to strengthen their national economic sovereignty.

From our partner International Affairs

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Economy

Is Russia Rich or Wealthy?

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Authors: Apurva Sanghi and Glenn-Marie Lange Vedemosti (Russia)

Which would you rather be: rich or wealthy? And what exactly is the difference?

Being rich is related to your regular paycheck: the monthly income you receive from your employer or your business. The fatter the paycheck, the richer you are. Being wealthy, on the other hand, is the value of all your assets: how much you have in savings in your bank account, your house, your car, and so on. The more of these assets you have, the wealthier you are.

Now you can be rich without being wealthy. But that will not be sustainable if you do not keep adding to your stock of assets. So, your economic well-being is a function of both your income and wealth.

What applies to you as an individual applies to a nation as well. Focusing only on national income, i.e. GDP, can be misleading. Wars or disasters increase GDP because reconstruction counts towards GDP, but this is in an accounting sense. Common-sense tell us they do not improve welfare of those affected. Yet policymakers and economists are obsessed with GDP. Perhaps it is because GDP is a relatively easy thing to measure. In our latest semi-annual report, we upgrade Russia’s growth numbers (1.2% for 2019, 1.6% and 1.8% for 2020 and 2021), which no doubt will generate much public attention but as mentioned above, can be misleading. Changes in income need to be complemented with a measure that captures changes in wealth. But how do you measure the wealth of a nation – especially one as large and diverse as Russia?

Our report aims to answer the question: “How wealthy is Russia” by measuring, for the first time, the country’s wealth from 2000–2017.  The analysis comprehensively measures four types of assets:

  • Produced capital: Russia’s buildings, bridges and infrastructure;
  • Human capital: the cumulative experience, knowledge and skills of Russians;
  • Natural capital: the lakes, forests, soil, air, water, oil and gas from which Russians derive a range of services;
  • Foreign capital: the net value of overseas assets owned by Russia.

The good news is that the typical Russian citizen was 1.8 times wealthier in 2017 than in 2000, with accumulated wealth of about 9 million rubles (or approximately US$ 153,000). The bad news is that this is only about a quarter of the wealth of a typical resident in member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Here is another question: which of the above four wealth components do you think comprises the largest share of overall wealth in Russia? It is not foreign capital; Russia simply does not own that many assets overseas. Is it natural capital? After all, Russia is blessed with abundant natural resources appropriately captured by the song in the famous 1936 Soviet film Circus: “Wide is my Motherland, Of her many forests, fields, and rivers!… From Moscow to the borders, From the southern mountains to the northern sea.” Or is it physical capital? From the shiny skyscrapers of Moscow to all the infrastructure spread around the world’s largest country — this surely must add up to a lot?

Well, the answer is neither of the above: rather, it is human capital – the cumulative experience, knowledge and skills of Russians – that comprises almost half of all Russia’s wealth, only then followed by physical capital (about a third), and natural capital (about a fifth). However, in comparison, the wealth composition of OECD countries on average is 70 percent human capital, 28 percent produced capital, 3 percent natural capital, and minus 1 percent net foreign assets (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Human capital comprises the largest share of wealth in Russia, but this is much lower than the OECD average

Here again, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that during 2000–2017, Russia’s per capita human capital grew massively at 80 percent, dwarfing growth in OECD countries and other commodity exporters. The bad news is that average annual growth has slowed from 4.7 percent in the 2000–2010 period to 1.8 percent during 2010–2017. Indeed, at this slower rate of 1.8 percent, it would take Russia almost 100 years to catch up with the OECD average. For Russia to grow wealthier, the policy focus is clear: increase both the returns to and share of human capital wealth.

Increasing returns to human capital, especially in education, ranges from improving the quality of vocational and college education throughout Russia’s regions to improving the 3 Cs of softer skills of Russian students: creativity, collaboration, and communication. One puzzle is why Russia’s human capital proportion of its total wealth (46 percent), is significantly lower than OECD’s (70 percent). After all, Russia’s education performance appears to be even better than the OECD’s in certain areas. For example, the proportion of the labor force with university degrees is higher in Russia than the OECD. And the quality of education as measured by certain global standardized tests is on par with the OECD. One possible explanation is that Russians are simply not earning adequate returns on their education.

Increasing the share of human capital would require a decrease in the share of something else. A good candidate for Russia would be natural capital; specifically, oil and gas related assets, which remain a significant part of Russia’s wealth. Russia’s large share of carbon-based wealth faces increased risk due to future price uncertainty and large-scale attempts at global decarbonization. Additionally, better managing Russia’s forests is an immediate priority and can also enhance Russia’s role as an “ecological donor” to the planet. As a rough estimate, Russia’s forests provide annual absorption of about 640 million tons of CO2 equivalent or around 30,000 billion rubles (over US$ 500 billion) over their lifetime.

After all, nothing lasts forever, so this abundance needs to be sustainably managed if Russia is indeed to be more than just a rich tale. Otherwise pursuing riches without building wealth would be a bit like building mansions on a foundation of sand.

World Bank

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