President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Repik. This year marks 15 years since Delovaya Rossiya was founded. A great deal has been accomplished during these years. I know that you continue to work energetically.
Delovaya Rossiya President Alexei Repik: Mr President, indeed, Delovaya Rossiya was established almost 15 years ago. In October 2001, you met at Moscow’s President Hotel with entrepreneurs who were in the process of creating a new business association at the time. Delovaya Rossiya was born on that day.
Delovaya Rossiya was established as an association representing the interests primarily of small, as well as medium sized business. True, over the past 15 years, the Russian economy has strengthened considerably and grown significantly, and many small and medium sized companies have become big; there are companies that have successfully entered international markets, and now this is a large non-commodity business community.
Since you mentioned our anniversary, naturally, I cannot but invite your to Delovaya Rossiya’s 15th anniversary conference on the 17th and the 18th, where we will review the results of these 15 years and formulate our agenda for the next 15 years.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Alexei Repik: It is particularly important that ideas, which, thanks to your directives, have effectively become major national projects, were put forward at the Delovaya Rossiya conference, the Delovaya Rossiya forum. For example, in 2011, there was a national entrepreneurial initiative and in 2014, a national technological initiative. Last year, on May 26, Entrepreneur’s Day, if you remember, you attended our forum. We asked you to support the initiative to intensify efforts to create the necessary competences to secure technologies, the world’s best technologies to increase labour productivity. You provided support and a technological development agency was set up. Incidentally, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce was of great help in that respect.
Literally a year later, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order on the establishment of the agency. We presented the agency at the St Petersburg forum in June. Now it has a very smart young director, Maxim Shereikin. By the way, he was chosen through an open selection process. There were over 350 candidates. We very much hope that he succeeds.
And you know, I was pleasantly surprised by the following: interest on the part of Russian companies was predictable, expected, but our foreign colleagues responded very enthusiastically. Sanctions aside, companies from Europe, Germany, Japan and even the United States are very interested in working with this new partner and they want to collaborate with Russian companies, including in the high-tech sector. Therefore, this initiative has taken off, and we would like to thank you on behalf of the business community.
Talking about the current situation, issues related to the business climate have been of major importance for us since 2001, and they are still at the top of our agenda.
Within the framework of the national entrepreneurial initiative, almost everything possible was done to amend legislation. The Federal Assembly has adopted all the necessary laws, tying up loose ends, last week. Now law enforcement comes to the fore.
This work is proceeding differently in different regions of the Russian Federation. To incentivise it, business associations have launched investment climate ratings on the regional level. We reviewed the results at the St Petersburg forum. Now it is clear who is in the lead and who is lagging behind. It is time to start correcting mistakes and looking for sources of growth. By the way, to this end, last year, you issued instructions to establish project offices in the regions.
It is not all smooth sailing here because it seems to me that your instructions are being followed largely as a matter of form and sometimes not at all. These project offices are being established by the regional authorities while the business community plays no role there. For example, Delovaya Rossiya has 78 regional chapters, and we would like to ask you to instruct the heads of Federation regions to get business involved in this effort. Then we will have everything we need for a breakthrough.
Vladimir Putin: I believe our colleagues in the regions will hear us, our conversation.
Alexei Repik: I very much hope so.
Vladimir Putin: And [that] they will respond. I believe that you are correct. Of course, this is exactly what needs to be done.
Alexei Repik: Speaking of problems, it is always pleasant to trumpet success stories, but there are still plenty of problems. I would like to note the two main ones. If you ask any entrepreneur, access to long-term financing is invariably at the top of their concerns.
Our banking system has been energetically supported by the Government, but interest rates remain high, and generally, the process of securing loans is far from easy. It seems to me that here we could try to tap more alternative sources of financing, in particular, of course, corporate bonds.
Vladimir Putin: Both the [Government’s] financial wing and the Central Bank are working on this.
Alexei Repik: It is good that they are working on this, but a certain measure of inequality remains. If individuals put their money on bank accounts they are exempt from taxes. Corporate bonds, unfortunately, are taxed at the full rate of 13 percent. In other words, individuals pay taxes on them. Therefore, we would like to ask you to create a level playing field here and, say, give individuals an extra incentive to work with industrial, primarily Russian enterprises without intermediaries, directly, of course, in strict compliance with the law.
Vladimir Putin: The most important thing is that we do not get any more [financial] pyramids or some other category of defrauded depositors in this case.
Alexei Repik: The Central Bank has learned to manage risks correctly and efficiently.
One final point, very brief but important. Unfortunately, whereas the situation with state auctions has stabilised and there is transparent legislation, which is comprehensible to business, namely Law No. 44, the situation is very difficult with regard to the sell-off of regional and municipal property, some natural resources, in particular, forests, land plots and the assets of bankrupt enterprises. There are over 30 bylaws with regulations established by officials whenever they feel like it. This breeds corruption, and business has to work with intermediaries, who are the sole beneficiaries of this instability and lack of transparency.
If you were now to direct the Government to work out a mechanism to unify legislation…
Vladimir Putin: Do you have proposals on this mechanism?
Alexei Repik: We have worked with the Federal Antimonopoly Service in this regard and we realise that there are sectoral specifics but general rules can be laid down in a single law.
Vladimir Putin: Formulate these proposals [and submit them] with two signatures, including the signature of the Federal Antimonopoly Service head. I will meet and talk with him in the near future.