Alexander Vakhmistrov: St. Petersburgs Anniversary to Give New Impetus to Partnership

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What are St. Petersburg construction companies bringing to the French BATIMAT this year? We asked Alexander Vakhmistrov, Vice Governor of St. Petersburg and Chairman of the Construction Committee of St. Petersburg City Hall, to tell us about the state of affairs in the construction industry of this 5-million metropolis on the banks of the Neva. BATIMATs cutting edge this year is its representative showcase of what new information technology and telecommunications can do for the construction industry. Do you think St. Petersburgs builders are prepared to absorb that kind of innovation? We are perfectly capable of absorbing any technological innovation, including new information technology. The popular saying that Russians take long to harness, but then ride really fast, is very appropriate in this case. The use of telecommunications has been rapidly increasing in many spheres of construction, both in St. Petersburg and the rest of the country. Telecommunications are widely used in paperwork processing, money transfers and data exchange. Among those who benefit substantially from proficiency in modern administrative and logistical tools are designers, developers, suppliers and, last but not least, customers. Some 100,000 people are currently employed in St. Petersburgs construction industry. To be able to handle the growing scope of challenges, we prefer to implement new technology and equipment rather than hire new staff. Were in for an all-round technological refurbishment of the industry. One of St. Petersburgs hot priorities is restoration and reconstruction of historical buildings... Downtown St. Petersburg is full of historical buildings. They must both be preserved for posterity, and made fit to live in. The World Bank-sponsored reconstruction program for downtown St. Petersburg will take care of this. On the other hand, participation in international construction shows is the best way to draw the attention of the international business community to this kind of major project. So far, the program of historical downtown reconstruction has been going very well. The pilot projects, including Courtyards of the Cappella, Block How is this years BATIMAT different from the preceding BATIMAT shows, in the opinion of St. Petersburg participants? First of all, this will be our last BATIMAT show before the citys 300th anniversary, which behooves us to be prepared to showcase the very best of St. Petersburgs investment opportunities this time. Notably, foreign investors are far more interested in St. Petersburg today than they were, say, five years ago, which helps a lot. International investors are setting sights on this city for a number of reasons. Firstly, St. Petersburgs upcoming anniversary features very prominently on UNESCOs official holiday calendar. Secondly, President Putin, who is a St. Petersburg native, often meets with foreign dignitaries on the banks of the Neva, and those meetings make international news. Thirdly, the citys investment climate has been, so to say, warming up year on year thanks to the effort of the citys authorities. Last year alone, more than US $1 billion of international money was invested in the city. Some of the milestone investment projects are the South-West Wastewater Treatment Plant, a number of hotels in the city center, a project for an industrial waste processing plant, and others. Some of the citys most treasured projects scheduled to be completed before the grand anniversary are the Beltway (for which we have, at long last, received some viable federal funding), the citys flood protection barrier, and reconstruction of a number of buildings to house the local branches of federal government ministries and agencies. What should the Russians expect from their participation in Frances BATIMAT this year? Participation in trade shows never brings immediate benefits measurable in meters, kilograms or monetary units. Shows are held primarily as forums for meeting people and forging partnerships. We must learn to trust each other and speak a common language, the language of commerce, of market economy. Trust can take years to build. However, it is not unlikely that some real business agreements will be hammered out at BATIMAT which will then be carried out here, in St. Petersburg. In this sense, the upcoming 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg will, in my opinion, be a formidable catalyst for successful international partnerships.

: 12.11.2001
Vladimir Artemiev, Vadim Simonovsky
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