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Q&A: Resource Transparency in Russia, with Ilya Ponomarev

Hon. Ilya Ponomarev is a member of the Russian State Duma for the A Just Russia party. He sat down with Revenue Watch at the December 2013 regional parliamentary workshop on extractives in Istanbul, where legislators from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Russia gathered. Here, he discusses his views on the state of transparency in Russia as well as international transparency initiatives.

Ilya Ponomarev, Russian MP

RWI: What is the status of parliamentary oversight in the extractives sector in Russia?
Ponomarev: Parliamentarians don’t have any direct authority over extractive policy. In recent years, parliament has taken on a more low-key profile. This has been brought on by the political reality of a strong ruling party, which controls the majority of votes. Due to this, decisions on oil, gas and minerals are less likely to be made inside of parliament.

How might policy and training institutes like RWI contribute to improve transparency and accountability in the extractive sector?
This Eurasia parliamentary workshop was very energetic. Russia tends to communicate more often with European, Slavic and CIS countries, and the composition of countries that we had during this event is very rare [for Russians]. Furthermore, it was really great to hold such a thematic discussion, brainstorm and attempt to find answers to specific questions. Generally speaking we have too many protocol events with no dialogue or interactive discourse. Also, trainings on extractives like this kind of event are needed in the producing regions of Russia beyond Moscow.

What do you think about Russia’s ranking in the Resource Governance Index?
I would rather think about how to catch up with countries as China, Saudi Arabia or Qatar – strong oil states, which are capable in using oil wealth for the development of the entire nation. I believe we need to catch up with these countries. I don’t think we should be comparing ourselves to Norway, the European nations and the UK.

Russia is the only country represented here that is not compliant with EITI. What are your thoughts about that?
I support all initiatives related to the openness of government, open data and transparency; these are fundamental things for the benefit of the entire society. However I still hold some reservations as I’m not familiar with all the details of the initiative, which I believe will require further study. For example, I would like to know the reason that countries such as members of OPEC do not participate in this initiative. I intend to investigate and learn more. However, generally as I said, I support every initiative related to transparency and am ready to lobby for and promote it.

Interview has been condensed and edited.