Sir Suma Chakrabarti, the EBRD president, has attended a dinner organised by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and hosted by President Putin in St Petersburg.
Sir Suma used the occasion to urge further investment in Russia’s infrastructure and raised problems affecting the country’s business climate.
Also at the dinner were CEOs of foreign corporations active in Russia and representatives of major sovereign funds from emerging markets.
The meal was one of several events within the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the most important opportunity the foreign business community has to meet the Russian government.
The Forum was also the setting for the signing of an agreement between Russia and the EBRD on the creation of a special € 40 million fund to back the Bank’s investments in the country.
Russia has long been a significant contributor of Technical Cooperation funds which mainly provide vital financial support at the early stages of projects.
However, the St Petersburg signing marked the first time the country has set up a dedicated fund to support EBRD investments in it.
Andrei Belousov, Russia’s Minister of Economic Development, expressed hope that his country’s contribution would have a big impact: Although the amount might look small, its could have an effect like acupuncture needles, he said at the signing.
He praised the EBRD as one of Russia's oldest and biggest partners, particularly singling out its pioneering role in encouraging improvements in the investment climate and attracting major investors to the Russian regions.
This was now a major priority for the ministry which was following in the EBRD’s footsteps, he added.
Sir Suma hailed the signing as symbolically important because it marked Russia's emergence as a major international donor.
He expressed hope that the Russian funding would in particular help regional SMEs prepare high quality business plans and energy audits.
In his international travels to promote investments in the EBRD region it was very difficult to convince firms that had no previous experience of Russia to do business here, Sir Suma said.
"Russia is a very hard sell at the moment," he told the business audience. "A lot of hard work has been done in Russia to improve the business environment. This is what I say on my travels, but no one believes me.
“Why? Can the Russian government do a better job of persuading investors? I have been to India, Israel and the US and it is very difficult there to attract new investors among those companies that don't know Russia."