What Will Russia’s $15 Billion Investment In The World Cup Buy?

- Jun 26, 2018 -

    The FIFA World Cup soccer championship in Russia is the most costly ever held.

    Officials say the total cost will be $15 billion.

   Close to $3 billion has been spent on 12 new or improved stadiums. At least $8 billion has been spent on infrastructure, including new roads, railroads and airports.

   Now, experts question whether there will be a good return for the Russian taxpayer.

    Professor Leonid Grigoryev is an economist at the Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation. He offers an unusual answer. He compares the World Cup to a wedding dress.

    On one hand, it's necessary. It makes everybody happy," Grigoryev told VOA. "The exact economic efficiency definitely cannot be defined in American quarterly financial reports. It's a long-term story. We still hope to become not only a hockey country, but a football country."

   Brazil held the last World Cup in 2014 at an estimated cost of $11 billion. Four years later, the difference is clear to Brazilian football fans in Moscow.

     "Comparing Brazil with Russia, the infrastructure here is much better than ours," Marcio Pessoa told VOA, as he walked through Red Square.

    Russia's $15 billion investment is aimed at improving the country's image, even as it faces sanctions. International restrictions were put in place over Russia's activities in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

   Dmitry Oreshkin is a political expert. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to govern as though the sanctions are not important. "'Despite sanctions, we conduct such a gorgeous World Cup. Despite sanctions we go ahead with the war in Syria'...until the very moment that they start feeling that for all this pleasure, they are paying [for something]," said Oreshkin.

    The first to feel the financial difficulty are likely to be the middle-aged people looking forward to retirement.

    On opening day of the World Cup last week, the government announced an increase in the pension age, from 60 to 65 for men, and a much bigger jump for women, from 55 to 63.

    Eva lives in Moscow. The 62-year-old told VOA that most Russians were not surprised.

    She said she believed that officials thought that the championship would ease the effect of the news.

    Eva described a joke that people were telling about the increase in the retirement ago.

    "‘Yesterday, I had four years until pension age. Today, I have nine years. And they still keep telling us that you can't get your youth back!'" she said.

    Russia said the World Cup is partly a gift for its young people. There is talk of unforgettable memories and new buildings. The World Cup ends on July 15, but its value will be measured in the coming years.

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