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World Bank’s $160 million loan to St Petersburg
The World Bank is to loan Russia approximately $60 million to develop and preserve cultural sites in St Petersburg. The beneficiaries include the State Hermitage Museum, the State Russian Museum, Tsarskoye Selo Museum and the Pavlovsk Museum. The money will also help cultural institutions introduce inititiatives that will generate revenue, improve accessibility, and improve financial management, budget and investment planning.

The loans are part of the St Petersburg Economic Development Project, a joint initiative between the Russian government and the World Bank which will see some $240 million spent to improve the city’s business climate, notorious for its corruption and red tape, and to restore important cultural sites which are not attracting as many tourists as they could.

In addition to the $60 million, the World Bank will loan an extra $100 million for urban development and infrastructure and the government will contribute almost $80 million for the same project. While Russia has 17 years to pay back the loan, the projects are to be completed in the next five years.

“In 1990 Unesco designated St Petersburg as a World Heritage Site, but domestic and international tourism remain largely under-exploited sectors despite the city’s unique potential,” said Richard Clifford, World Bank Country Manager for Russia, in a press statement.

This year St Petersburg, which is President Putin’s native city, marked its 300th anniversary, and since 2000 the Russian government has spent about $2 billion restoring the city centre and improving urban infrastructure.

About $46 million of the World Bank’s $60 million earmarked for culture will be invested in a project known as the, “Rehabilitation of Cultural Assets” to fund conservation of buildings, the upgrading of security systems, and the improvement of conditions for visitors and employees.

The bank will spend $470,000 to provide technical assistance to the Mariinsky Theater and the Russian Museum by helping them improve financial management in accordance with international standards, and to improve marketing and business development.

Finally, $7.32 million will go towards making design studies for construction projects at the Mariinsky Theater and the Hermitage Museum, as well as for the services of technical specialists.

The allocation of the funds will take place subject to final approval by the Russian government which is expected within the next few months, according to Miriam Van Dyck of the World Bank.