President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Titov, today we have the annual report.
Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights Boris Titov: Yes, the annual report, as always on Entrepreneur Day.
Vladimir Putin: It is already the ninth.
Boris Titov: As always on this day, May 26, we would like to congratulate all entrepreneurs and deliver our report, if possible.
Vladimir Putin: And it is my pleasure to do the same. Our domestic businesses are displaying their best qualities in what I would describe as difficult conditions. They are adapting quickly enough to them. I know how difficult it is to find new partners, to build new supply chains, and to maintain production, services and quality at high level. All this requires a lot of effort and talent, I would say.
Boris Titov: And willpower.
Vladimir Putin: And willpower. Coupled with a sense of responsibility, all this is allowing the overwhelming majority of our entrepreneurs to produce very good results.
Boris Titov: Thank you very much, Mr President.
Here is the report. Indeed, this year is our tenth anniversary. I am referring to the institution of the Commissioner for Entrepreneurs' Rights: you signed an executive order to establish it in 2012.
As always, the report covers the institution and the regions – we are now working in all regions of the Russian Federation. A particular feature of this year is that this is a special report on how the business climate has changed over these 10 years.
I would like to say that, of course, much has changed for the better during this time. Oversight activities have undergone a positive change. They are completely different now. The number of inspections has decreased by three times during this period and fines have decreased six times over. The guillotine that chopped off regulations…
Vladimir Putin: Unnecessary ones.
Boris Titov: It has cut off 33 percent of them, so now businesses are faced with a much smaller number of regulatory requirements. This is why it is a very positive factor.
The attitude of businesses to the judicial system and law-enforcement bodies has begun to improve a bit. It would be wrong to say that everything is positive here but the trend has emerged and entrepreneurs feel somewhat better.
Of course, criminal prosecution of businesses is the main problem that remains outstanding. I would like to show you the figures. Unfortunately, even in the pandemic year of 2020 the number of criminal cases increased by almost 25 percent. They were all for violations of economic statutes, including fraud, Article 159.
The number of cases brought to court went up by another 7.7 percent even in 2021. As you remember, we paid significant attention to this. The figures started coming down a bit but they still stand at about 15 percent. So, for the time being we still have to resolve this problem, as before.
I must say that much is being done. The Prosecutor’s Office is helping us a lot in this respect – we study closely every single case. As for oversight activities, it simply issued an order: the Prosecutor-General prohibited the office from interfering in the economic activities of businesses and this was of great help in improving the situation.
But, of course, we still have to make progress on criminal cases.
Vladimir Putin: The number of people in pre-trial detention centres…
Boris Titov: At one time it started falling.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this was in 2019. Is it growing now?
Boris Titov: Unfortunately, it has started growing again.
But we must separate them from those who are charged under economic statutes but are not entrepreneurs. We have now learned to do this because now we are conducting statistics by registration forms in cooperation with the Federal Penitentiary Service. If a person in a pre-trial detention centre or prison has registered as an entrepreneur, if his profession…
Vladimir Putin: Leave me the papers.
Boris Titov: Yes, yes, of course.
Out of 6,000 people, 2,400 are entrepreneurs. We started tracking these statistics only this year.
Vladimir Putin: The task of the state is to remove red tape from these activities, to help people, not to interfere with their business, and to eventually reduce this burden, while retaining the right to oversight, especially over the areas linked with public health and safety.
Boris Titov: You know, oversight activities have become less intensive and there are fewer inspections but the amount of harm done in the country is practically unchanged. In other words, things have not become any worse and people’s rights continue to be protected as before.
Vladimir Putin: But life must become better. In fact, in the current conditions, expanding the zone of freedom is a response to everything that is happening outside, a response to outside pressure.
Boris Titov: These are exactly the words we want to hear because only economic and business freedoms can maintain and grow the economy under this pressure.
Vladimir Putin: We will certainly keep to this path. That is for sure. We will definitely follow this path carefully so as not to do damage to our society, to our people.
I know that you certainly have some side questions linked with specific problems.
Boris Titov: Yes, I do.
Vladimir Putin: Let us discuss them.