St Petersburg means business

The St Petersburg International Economic Forum has become the highlight of the Russian business calendar. Every year, contracts worth billions of pounds are signed there, and future projects agreed on.

Reporting on the results of the 2007 International Economic Forum in St Petersburg, the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade has estimated that the forum generated as much as $13.5bn worth of contracts and 30 protocols of intent.

Most of the latter, including the construction of a giant car plant in the Kaluga Region, are already well underway.

The forum has long been appreciated by international business as an opportunity for businessmen to learn about new sources of government investment support.

Next year's forum will continue in this vein, offering seminars on the state's new Investment Fund, special tax-light economic zones, the Development Corporation, and high-tech oriented funds.

But, given the personal nature of Russian business, the chance to talk with senior Russian ministers in an informal atmosphere is just as valuable.

One investor said that he had been bogged down in endless debates with a regional civil servant over a plot of land he wanted for his plant but, after talking to a minister at the forum, he managed to resolve the issue in a matter of minutes.

St Petersburg is undeniably one of the world's most alluring cities in which to hold a conference. A northern city with dramatic, bitter winters; summer turns it into a paradise filled with magnificent monuments and breathtaking architecture.

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