Britain is chasing an agenda that will scare away business and needs a proper “development plan” to accompany its austerity push, according to Oleg Deripaska, the Russian metals tycoon.
Mr Deripaska, chief executive of the world’s biggest aluminium producer Rusal, said the UK was a “country which could progress much faster...but suddenly decided to choose a different agenda”, while the US is currently “more attractive”.
“You neglect your financial institutions, you put so much pressure on your bankers,” he said. “You scare them [to] death...[meaning that they are less] active in global trade, global financing, and you lose a lot of opportunity.
“It’s the wrong perception, that the bankers and financiers are bad people. If you don’t trust the previous generation, you just go and choose new ones.”
While cynics will suggest that Rusal’s near $11bn (£7bn) debt load would mean Mr Deripaska is unlikely to call for tighter banking controls, he made the criticism as part of a broader argument that Britain is failing to seize its opportunity on the global stage.
He spoke to The Sunday Telegraph at the World Economic Forum, after David Cameron gave a headline speech pledging to clamp down on international companies’ tax arrangements, shortly after he had promised Britons a referendum on the UK’s future within Europe.
That was a mistake in terms of attracting investment into the country, Mr Deripaska suggested.
“I just listened to your prime minister and I was surprised,” he said. “Instead of promoting British opportunity, he tried to scare people that there may be a new arrangement with the European Union.
“I think it’s very counterproductive. If he wants to negotiate, he should do so quietly. I don’t know why you want to put your agenda on every wall.”
As for whether the UK should stay in the EU, Mr Deripaska asked: “Do you want to stay with Pakistan or Germany? Maybe I’m a little bit naive and too narrow, but this is, sort of, the choice you have.”
Currently, Britain’s austerity plan lacks an accompanying “development plan”, he argued.
“You need to use this opportunity - that you have a better tax system than the rest of Europe,” he said. “You need to attract more manufacturing, but instead, you say, 'Okay, we are going to be looking at how you structure your cash flow.’”
As a result, businesses’ lawyers will warn them to take a “cautious” view of the UK over the next seven years or so, he suggested, warning against letting NGOs set the economic agenda.
“NGOs are not capable of running a country’s economy,” he said. “They are capable of raising the flag if something’s wrong, but it’s a great mistake to give them a chance for leadership. First (Other OTC: FSTC - news) of all, they are the most untransparent legal entities in the world.”