Competing for Investment: How to Win
2 September 2021
As competition for investors in the Asia-Pacific region intensifies, the Far East could adopt practices from more experienced players
The incentive regimes in the Far East have helped attract a great deal more investment to the region. However, it is no secret that they were based on initiatives put in place in the Asia-Pacific. Ultimately, we have largely been able to develop the best regime for attracting investment at this moment in time. Those are not my words, they are what investors have said – people who have demonstrated their belief and put money into the development of the Far East — Vladimir Solodov, Governor of Kamchatka Territory.
Of course, Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District forms part of the Asia-Pacific market. There are both advantages and disadvantages in this. One disadvantage is that our competitors are players who already have a fair amount of experience in this market, such as South Korea, China, and Singapore. It is very difficult to compete with these nations on equal terms. However, there are advantages too. <…> We can draw upon their experience and avoid making the mistakes that they made in the past — Mikhail Orlov, Partner, Head of Tax and Legal, KPMG in the CIS.
Nations in the Asia-Pacific region are doing much to remove legislative barriers for investors
In my opinion, the main challenge with regard to attracting investment is that investment is always a battle, it is always a competition. <…> Our neighbours have not been asleep these past two years. The regimes they have in place and the improvements they have made are of a kind the world has never seen before, I would say. In particular, an entire package of legal documents has been adopted in Oman to foster economic growth during the pandemic. When an investor goes there, for example, they can obtain a temporary licence permitting them to start work within two months while they wait for all the necessary permits. And in Malaysia, this period is just two days. If you have a new company, if it does not contravene any laws, if it does nothing that could be considered harmful, then a permit is automatically issued in two days — Leonid Petukhov, Managing Partner, Sistema PJSFC.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly intensified competition in the Asia-Pacific region
Time does not stand still. We are faced with new challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has served to make all of us rethink ways of doing things. We learned to react more quickly to external challenges that arise; however, our neighbours – primarily those from the Asia-Pacific region – managed to react quicker still. That is why it is critical that we address the pressing issue of what kinds of challenges we face in terms of attracting investment. We need to ensure that the Far East remains competitive, and that the accelerated tempo that has been set is maintained at the next stage of development — Vladimir Solodov, Governor of Kamchatka Territory.
Public funding alone is insufficient for development in the Far East, and the initiative of investors is crucial
Incentive regimes are key to achieving economic growth in the Far East. We understand how vast this region is, what immense riches exist, and what complex challenges are posed in terms of construction and development. To this day, we have been unable to put all the necessary amenities and infrastructure in place. And of course, without creating a serious difference in potential, without expending energy on the Far East’s economic model, and without any funding other than from the public purse, we will be unable move this region forward — Alexander Osipov, Governor of Trans-Baikal Territory.
The government needs to focus its attention on creating jobs and processing resources
We are fully aware that two important areas currently suffer from a lack of proper incentives. The first is processing. We extract a huge amount of resources, and doing so is profitable. Once this is done, it is profitable to ship them virtually in their raw form, both via eastern ports, and via land borders with China and Southeast Asian nations. <…> However, it is not profitable to process these resources in Trainsbaikal Territory itself. Consequently, we build workers’ settlements and produce subsoil resources which could serve as a source of long-term development, but we do not build industrial facilities. The second area concerns jobs in remote regions. Transbaikal Territory is home to 1,050,000 people. Of that figure, 70% live in remote rural areas as a rule, where it is very difficult to create jobs. The current system, with advanced special economic zones, does not allow for the necessary support and procedures to create jobs in these remote areas — Alexander Osipov, Governor of Trans-Baikal Territory.
The government needs to analyse feedback from investors and act on their wishes
In the run-up to the session, we conducted a survey and spoke to a large number of investors. We were able to group their proposals into four main categories. The first is that <…> new ideas and proposals concerning investment have emerged over the past two years which are specific to the Far East. The second category concerns what we could do to further reduce the costs borne by investors. The third is to do with how life and the investment process could be made easier for investors in the Far East. And the fourth category relates to how we can protect them — Leonid Petukhov, Managing Partner, Sistema PJSFC.
It is important to give incentive regimes time to grow, and not to change the rules of the game
Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area in China has existed for 37 years, the Incheon Free Economic Zone in South Korea has existed for 18 years, and the Nadezhdinskaya ASEZ has existed for 5 years. <…> It’s greatly concerning to hear things like we’ve achieved something amazing, so let’s think of something new. That’s not how it should be – it needs time. Today, the Far Eastern Federal District has the highest number of incentive regimes. We created special economic zones. When that didn’t work out, we created advanced special economic zones, then the Free Port of Vladivostok, then special administrative regions. <...> And in August a new special regime was put in place on the Kuril Islands. It is my impression that we want to achieve a fast result within five years. <…> That does not sit right with me. We can look to our neighbours and see how they patiently developed their ASEZs step by step. What is it we are lacking today? Patience and graduality — Mikhail Orlov, Partner, Head of Tax and Legal, KPMG in the CIS.