Ari Mervisis managing director of a Russian subsidiary of SABMiller a South Africa-based brewery with offices in England, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic and, one of the largest investors in the Kaluga Oblast. Mervis spoke to The Russia Journal about the actual investment climate in the region.
The Russia Journal: Why did SABMiller choose the Kaluga Oblast as for its investment in Russia?
Ari Mervis:When SABMil-ler invested in Russia in 1998, Kaluga was seen as an appropriate location, given its close proximity to Moscow. Obviously, the fact that the brewery we purchased offered the necessary expansion potential also played a pivotal role in the decision, as did the availability of the necessary services and utilities.
TRJ: How much has SABMiller invested in the region. Do you plan to increase this amount?
AM:To date, we have invested more than $150 million in our brewery in Kaluga. And, given the current demand levels for its products, an additional expansion in the order of $40 million is being contemplated at present.
TRJ: As a foreign investor, how would SABMiller management rate the investment climate in the Kaluga, and what specific investment-boosting programs in the region are being enjoyed by SABMiller there?
AM:Generally speaking, I would say the investment climate in Kaluga is very favorable.
TRJ: Are there region-specific problems being faced by SABMiller in its operation in the Kaluga Oblast and how fast are they being solved? Do regional officials help or hinder initiatives there?
AM:No specific problems have been identified. Generally, the officials are helpful in resolving issues as necessary.
TRJ: Then which areas would you say need to be improved upon in the region taxation laws, federal land laws, etc.?
AM:There is an ongoing need for clarification of the law in certain areas, which may appear to be unclear to companies, e.g. federal land laws
TRJ: If you were asked to advise the regional government on how to attract more foreign investments, what would be your top three priorities?
AM:First of all, I would like to see the continuation of improvements 1) in speed of administrative processes, 2) in on-going efforts at ensuring transparency within the administration, 3) and, lastly, the continuation of the strategy of having senior administrative personnel accessible to current and potential investors.