Russia today stands at a crossroads. It has potential to become a fully-integrated member of the global economic system and a democratic state serving as a force for stability on the Eurasian continent. At the other end of the spectrum stands the possibility of a failed Russia whose disintegration would be catastrophic not only for its own people but for the world at large. At the fulcrum, is President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people. Enjoying around 75% popularity in public opinion polls, the President has a unique and historic opportunity to move Russia along the path of democracy, peace and a market economy. EWI, through its Moscow Centre, its regional publications, and its new Private Sector Initiative, is deeply engaged in partnering with the forces of change in the Russian Federation.
The massive handouts from the public sector in the past decade are not the answer. The first year of the Putin Presidency has seen a leveling of the legal playing field in Russia. Twelve months ago some 70% of all regional legislation in Russia was in violation of Federal law. Today that number is less than 3%. Reform of the court system is moving ahead as is land and taxation reform. Yet the Western investors who want to enter Russia are held back by administrative barriers and other discouraging elements in the business environment. How this gets addressed will determine in large measure what Western investors (and Russian flight capital as well) will do in the decade ahead. The EWI Private Sector Initiative is already working with Russian officials and experts in the areas of Pension Reform and Fiscal Transparency. Soon a major EWI effort on transportation issues will be added in cooperation with the World Bank. These undertakings can only work if Russia's leaders boldly move ahead with the legal and administrative changes needed to make Russia a country more able to integrate with other economies.
EWI continues to deepen its efforts in Moscow and beyond. Our network of correspondents in 60 oblasts is one of the most reliable and far reaching. Our Russian Regional Report and Russian Regional Investor have wide and diverse readerships weekly and bi-weekly throughout the world's business and governmental communities. Our Russian Regional Bulletin, produced in the Russian language, has the fastest rising circulation of any publication in our twenty years. Objectivity and honesty in reporting are hallmarks of these regional publications. EWI is deepening its work in the regions, particularly in Perm, Pskov and Kaliningrad as well as the Central District of Moscow. The first regional fiscal transparency study is being undertaken this summer. The EWI Moscow Centre has reached out and formed a strong network of experts. The Task Force on How America Should Respond to Putin's Russia is deeply engaged in its work including meetings with the President and the top leadership of Russia. Strategic as well as out-of-the-ordinary partnerships form the basis of EWI's work with Russia.