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The Russian economy: Will Russia ever catch up?

March 31, 2015 Comments off

The Russian economy: Will Russia ever catch up?
Source: European Parliament Think Tank

Over the past 25 years, Russia has undergone dramatic economic changes, with the difficult reforms and catastrophic economic collapse of the 1990s, the boom years of the new century, the global economic crisis and the current downturn. Despite all these developments, many of the structural economic challenges faced by Russia remain unchanged since Soviet times. Bountiful natural resources have helped to fuel growth, but at the cost of an unhealthy dependency, as the current situation so clearly illustrates. This problem is acknowledged by the Russian government, which under Dmitri Medvedev’s presidency in particular, declared its intentions to diversify and modernise the economy. However, the continued flow of gas and oil money has removed the incentive to undertake serious economic reforms, and these have faltered as a result. Many of Russia’s structural problems are inherited from Soviet and even Tsarist times. Large swathes of the economy remain under state control, and there are numerous barriers to both domestic and international competition. Businesses struggle with red tape and ubiquitous corruption. Despite Medvedev’s stated objective of developing an ‘intelligent economy’, and the country’s traditional strengths in research, development, innovation and education, Russia continues to underperform in these areas. Over the past few years, the Russian government has simplified bureaucratic procedures, launched a high-profile anti-corruption campaign, privatised state-owned companies, overhauled the education system and invested in innovation. However, such initiatives have brought measurable improvements in only a few areas. Aggravated by these structural issues, falling oil prices and economic sanctions have led to a rapid deterioration in the economic situation. The rouble has lost half its value, inflation has shot up, formerly sound public finances look increasingly shaky, and the economy is forecast to tip into recession in 2015. How quickly Russia recovers from its current difficulties will depend on whether or not oil prices pick up and sanctions are eased. Regardless of these, however, structural problems are likely to continue hampering the process of economic modernisation for the foreseeable future.

Open Data in the G8

March 26, 2015 Comments off

Open Data in the G8
Source: Center for Data Innovation

In 2013, the leaders of the G8 signed an agreement committing to advance open data in their respective countries. This report assesses the current state of open data efforts in these countries and finds substantial variation in their progress. Moving forward, countries have many opportunities to enhance their open data capabilities, such as by increasing international collaboration, better educating policymakers about the benefits of open data, and working closely with civil society on open data initiatives.

Heritage Foundation Releases First Annual “Index of U.S. Military Strength”

March 4, 2015 Comments off

Heritage Foundation Releases First Annual “Index of U.S. Military Strength”
Source: Heritage Foundation

The U.S. military may be weaker than you think. All but one branch of America’s military and nuclear forces are currently operating at “marginal” strength levels. The exception is the Air Force, which is rated as “strong” in the “Index of U.S. Military Strength,” released today by The Heritage Foundation.

A first-of-its-kind report, the Index provides an in-depth analysis of global threats to vital U.S. interests and our armed forces’ ability to prevail against them. It concludes that, overall, U.S. armed forces are not capable of prevailing when fighting two regional conflicts at once, a longstanding strategic objective. It notes that, while terrorism still presents a serious threat, Russia and China pose the greatest danger to U.S. national security.

Fact Sheet — New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms

January 9, 2015 Comments off

New START Treaty Aggregate Numbers of Strategic Offensive Arms
Source: U.S. Department of State

Data in this Fact Sheet comes from the biannual exchange of data required by the Treaty. It contains data declared current as of September 1, 2014. Data will be updated each six month period after entry into force of the Treaty.

Backgrounder: The Russian Military

November 17, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: The Russian Military
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The Russian military suffered years of neglect after the Soviet collapse and no longer casts the shadow of a global superpower. However, the Russian armed forces are in the midst of a historic overhaul with significant consequences for Eurasian politics and security. Russian officials say the reforms are necessary to bring a Cold War-era military into the twenty-first century, but many Western analysts fear they will enable Moscow to pursue a more aggressive foreign policy, often relying on force to coerce its weaker neighbors. Some say Russian interventions in Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014—both former Soviet republics seeking closer ties to the West—demonstrate that President Vladimir Putin is prepared to use military force to reestablish Russian hegemony in its near abroad.

New Comparative Law Report — Approval of Medical Devices

November 14, 2014 Comments off

Approval of Medical Devices (PDF)
Source: Law Library of Congress

This report describes the approval process for medical devices in the European Union and fifteen countries, and also indicates whether or not an expedited approval procedure is available. Many of the countries reference EU law, including France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Israel more readily approves devices with a CE mark (indicating approval in the EU) or an indication that they are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In many nations, particularly those influenced by the EU, part of the review process is conducted not by the government but by private, independent organizations called “notified bodies.” These organizations are designated by EU Member States.

In most of the countries in the survey, medical devices are categorized based on the risks associated with their use, and the approval process varies by category. For example, in the United Kingdom, manufacturers of low-risk devices may register with the government agency and simply declare that the devices meet the requirements to be approved. Devices classed as higher risk must undergo more detailed review, by a notified body.

On the question of an expedited approval process, Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Spain, and Switzerland permit some sort of rapid review in particular cases, often when a device is required for an individual patient and no substitute is available. Mexico has provided for more rapid approval of devices if they have already been approved in either Canada or the United States. No such procedure exists at present in Brazil, France, Israel, the Russian Federation, or the United Kingdom. The Russian Federation did have a rapid approval system in place prior to August 2014. Germany provides for temporary approval of devices in limited circumstances. South Africa is now considering draft legislation that would include expedited procedures in specified situations.

Russia Economic Report 32: Policy Uncertainty Clouds Medium-Term Prospects

October 29, 2014 Comments off

Russia Economic Report 32: Policy Uncertainty Clouds Medium-Term Prospects
Source: World Bank

Russia’s economy is stagnating. Increasing uncertainty has impacted investor and consumer decisions. There are substantial risks to Russia’s medium-term outlook. Economic recovery will need a predictable policy environment and a new model of diversified development. Prospects for further poverty reduction and shared prosperity are limited.

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