The worldвЂ™s largest country, Russia is now and always has been one of the more complex and intriguing members of the global community. It truly is, as Winston Churchill so aptly put it, вЂњa riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.вЂќ The complex identity of the country stems not in the least from its position straddling Europe and Asia - it has always struggled with which direction to turn. Politically Russia is quite new to democracy. For most of its history, the country was ruled by autocratic czars, something that didnвЂ™t change much following the Russian Revolution of 1917. The country is more than 80% ethnically Russian, and Russian is the official language.
Russia has always struggled with a tremendous gap between a small group of the very rich and the majority of the population - a gap that was not alleviated by the 70 years of Communist governing. The transition from a centrally planned to a market economy has been difficult due to government corruption, a weak, non-independent judiciary and an industrial base decades behind most western countries. However, the country has huge reserves of natural resources and in recent years has steadily increased economic output.
CDC is implementing USAIDвЂ™s three-year Integrated Business Services (IBS) program in Russia to strengthen the Russian small-to-medium enterprises (SME) sector and the Business Services Providers (BSPs) that service it. IBS involves training BSPs to become self-sufficient and giving them the tools they need to provide services to clients on a competitive and profitable basis. Additionally, the IBS Program aims to provide BSPs with the tools and strategies to expand access to finance by SMEs, expand the role of women in consulting, BSP operations, and SME ownership and management, and remove government-imposed obstacles that impede SME growth.