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From Russia with Love

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Well, maybe “love” is too strong a word, but I could not resist using the title of an old Bond movie starring Sean Connery.

There is something captivating about Russia. Not only is Moscow stunning in winter; it is also “grand” and “proud” and full of clever people.

Last week, I spoke at the Gaidar Forum, essentially the Russian equivalent of WEF Davos. Together with senior company executives, I also had a long meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov and Health Minister Skvortsova. My colleagues also met Industry Minister Manturov.

When Shuvalov, and later Prime Minister Medvedev, spoke about plunging oil prices as “the best thing that had happened to Russia”, I almost believed them. The excesses and uncontrolled growth of the previous decades are no longer sustainable. Leading world economists spoke at the Forum about the need for countries like Russia – which prosper from finite natural resources – to diversify and seek economic growth from other sectors. This is where we come in.

My colleagues and I made it clear to the Russian government that their “localisation strategy” – giving preferential or exclusive treatment to local companies – is short-sighted and counter-productive.

At a press conference, I argued that Russia is certain to see inward investments once the economy rebounds and healthcare coverage is expanded; but the global industry cannot be forced to stump up the cash. “You have to be much more clever,” I told them.

This aside, many Russian scientists and entrepreneurs are not connected to the global system of innovation. This is a complex issue that cannot be resolved by force.

I also met the head of the Russian regulatory agency, Roszdravnadzor (yes, that is a word and I have even learnt to pronounce it) and his staff, and I was impressed by their knowledge and their vision for smarter regulation, embellished with a nod to global co-operation.

Yes, Russian policies are sometimes lacking in coherence, but, last week, we took a positive step forward in engaging in active and constructive dialogue with the Russian government. I am wholly convinced that my member companies can enjoy a fruitful partnership with the Russian government to ensure a future that is good for Russia, its economy and ultimately Russian patients.

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EFPIA Director General

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