Mr Petrov, I would like to talk to you about Iran. It is a very promising country in terms of its market. Our countries have already signed contracts worth hundreds of millions of US dollars. More than 30 agreements were signed during the president's visit.
- You are absolutely right. I am sure there is more to come, but it is a very delicate market. You need to have the negotiating skills and extraordinary patience. Unfortunately, when Russia switched to the market economy we adopted the American style of doing business – a business lunch cannot take place for more than 45 minutes you negotiate and sign contracts quickly. it is not the way they do business in Iran. It is a mentality issue, and a big one.
Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, North Caucasus republics are mindful of these specific aspects. Russia’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious structure is a big bonus that we need to rely on.
When you go back to the Soviet times, you would have Moldavians working in the embassies in Oman, people from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and other Central Asian republics of the USSR seconded to embassies across the Middle East. People knew different languages, and knew the mentality. We had a lot of ambassadors representing those republics of the Soviet Union.
Today the focus is on Islamic banking. Sberbank, Russia's biggest bank, said it has closed one deal involving Islamic banking. VEB said it was supposed to close one deal by the end of May. These are just the first steps. However, it means that such deals are possible even today without any amendments to legislation.
A senior official from the Central Bank recently said it is possible to do Islamic banking without any changes to legislation. However, there is Kazakhstan which has widely used Islamic banking and its experience indicates that some changes would still have to be made. Our banking community agrees with that.
What is your take on Islamic banking?
- I use the Chinese approach: “Every flower is welcome”, they say.