Increased affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church has proved to be a trend among Russia’s elite groups during Putin’s third presidential term. Both the church and elite groups benefit from their mutual allegiance. While power players finance Church operations, the Church provides ideological backing to the Kremlin and a positive public image for business elite.
VTB’s involvement in the Mozambique debt scandal attracted attention to the bank’s operations in Africa and other foreign countries. The bank is closely connected to Russia’s most powerful elite groups who frequently use it to solve politically-sensitive problems. VTB’s foreign activity should be closely monitored vis-à-vis the Kremlin’s attempts to use it to informally promote its foreign policy goals.
Institutional and systemic lapses continue to undermine Georgia’s investment environment. Using the fertilizer sector as a case study, this analysis highlights how sustained interference of politically connected informal business networks in key enterprises has prevented modernisation, and further contributed to deepening a negative image of the country’s wider business and investment climate.
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Behind the scenes, Kazakhstan’s political and business clans have always bickered; but the era of high economic growth that largely insulated the regime from elite discontent is now over, and the rivalry between various factions has begun to surface in public. As Nazarbayev seeks to balance the two main elite groups, a third has risen and is raising questions.
Although a lesser discussed set of bilateral relations, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates are sending signals of enhanced cooperation. Given the UAE’s desire to expand and diversify its economy, established investors should keep one eye on the effects that emerging bilateral agreements may have on their interests.
Russia’s banking sector is undergoing the largest reshuffle in decades. The result is that over 50% of banking assets are controlled by a handful of large state- and private-owned entities, through which informal networks leverage their influence. Details of the power dynamics and influence power players wield over Russia’s banks are provided in the Report Store.
As Kazakhstan’s agricultural sector is increasingly becoming of strategic importance to the country’s economy, it has attracted not only interest amongst the Kazakh political elite but also foreign investors, including China. This sector is starting to attract the attention of the country’s key power players.
Russia’s formal institutions are often undermined by informal institutions. This means that what the government says or legislates for is not a good guide to how the country is governed in practice. Instead of creating the conditions for stability and modernisation, Putin’s government has actually done the opposite and entrenched informality.
Over the past few years, children of Russia’s elite groups have – with increasing frequency - been appointed to high-profile positions in state-owned corporations and ministries, or have taken over their parents’ business. Shadow Governance examines how blood relations, combined with strong societal networks, are used to exert influence and engage in resource distribution.
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Kazakhstan’s banking sector is undergoing a degree of restructuring. The indications are that the sector will undergo several mergers and acquisitions – which will involve banks with ties to the Presidential circle. With suggestions that the country is preparing for political transition, changes in the banking sector can be viewed as an integral part of elite negotiations for a post-Nazarbayev era.
The role the Aliyev family plays in Azerbaijan goes beyond the political. As per the many exposes on the commercial exploits of the Presidential family, Azerbaijan exemplifies the negative economic impact a strong political-commercial nexus can have on a country’s FDI prospects.
In Ukraine, the media landscape is highly manipulated. Oligarchs, who dominate various industries, have realised the influential that control over media carries. In this sense, oligarchic interests in media ownership makes this sector a battleground for interests, rather than the ‘truth’.