November 17th, 2011
06:32 AM GMT
(CNN) – Twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian business is dominated by a handful of men known simply as the oligarchs.
In the 1990s many of them carved up Russia’s newly privatized state-owned assets. Huge fortunes were built as the Red Empire collapses around them, and Russian oligarchs joined the world’s super rich.
Among them is Oleg Deripaska. He was still a student at the start of the 1990s, but his rise was meteoric. By the end of the decade, the nuclear physics graduate from Moscow State University controlled most of Russia’s aluminum industry and his company, Rusal, is now the world’s biggest producer.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, he talks about the role of Russia in the EU crisis, and whether Russia is underperforming the rest of the developing world.
“Russia should deal with our own problem – lack of infrastructure, development in Siberia and the Far East, more emphasis on agriculture and development of agricultural food processing,” he said. “Europe will benefit from our strong market and our opportunity to invest in Russia.”
He points out that the Russian economy is on track for more than 4 percent growth this year, and a government debt to GDP ratio that stands below 12%, and total foreign debt to GDP ratio that is below 30%.
“We have quite good numbers in many basic industries – for example, the number of cars produced in Russia this year doubled,” Deripaska said.
Asked whether the Russian economy is underperforming compared to India and China, he points out that Russia was more exposed to the 2009-2009 financial crisis, but recapitalized banks point to a stronger economy in 2012-2013.
The growth of the Asian titans will ultimately help Russia, he said.
“With China we have our longest border, more than 2000 kilometers,” he said. “It’s not just China – Asia is a very important partner for us to develop our Siberian and eastern territories.”
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