Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the approaching holiday of March 8 and to wish all the best to you and to all the women of Tobolsk, Siberia and Russia.
On such days, as a rule, they say all the kind words to women. I think you will be told such words at home many times. I join all the best wishes to you.
It is also customary to speak about the role and importance of women. I subscribe to all that too.
At the same time I would like to note that the role women occupy in society is an important indicator and characteristic of its development. We talk about it a great deal. Indeed, women perform a very important, a key function not only in the family, but in the country. I am sure there are many teachers and health workers among you. These are traditional spheres in which the majority of women work.
More than 50% of the civil service are women. But there the problems begin. Although there are so many women in the civil service, only a little over seven percent of them are at an executive level. This means that women mostly work at the lower and medium levels of management. In the opinion of many authoritative experts, including foreign ones, legislatures begin working effectively and addressing issues of social protection, healthcare, medicine and so on when they contain at least 20% women. As a rule they pay attention to social issues. 7.3% of the State Duma are women. And in the upper house of parliament you can count all the women on the fingers of your hand. One third of the legislative assemblies in the Russian regions have no women at all.
We speak a lot about Russia becoming integrated into the economic space of Europe and the world. We will not be able to effectively function within the world economy unless we become part of the European humanitarian space. And that means that women’s self-awareness will approach that of Europe. And that is right. That will automatically make the women aware of their role in society and will change their position. I am convinced of this and I think that it is right.
I congratulate you again and wish you all the best. And now we can have an informal exchange of opinions on the issues that you consider to be fundamental and urgent.
Vladimir Putin on the problems of small business:
I think we must say frankly that an attempt has been made to cut down on bureaucracy in the sphere of taxation and to reduce taxes. But in spite of the noble intention, not much has been accomplished. We are moving in the right direction, but so far we cannot report that the Government has solved all the problems set before it. Speaking about the single social tax, the amount of paperwork involved in paying it, far from diminishing, has in fact increased. Number one.
Number two. The overall tax burden has been eased a little bit, but not much. So, the first thing that has to be done is to continue work to improve the single social tax and reduce red tape in the tax system. The tax system must be simpler and more understandable.
Small and medium businesses are unable to deal with such a huge amount of accounting. It involves a lot of additional spending for enterprises, which cripples business. And that of course is one of the tasks. The Government is thinking about it. Because the task is more or less clear I would like to express the hope that more decisions in this area will be taken.
As regards tax breaks for importers, that is a sensitive topic. It should be approached very carefully. I have spoken about it many times. The more benefits are enjoyed by importers of equipment the less chance there is that our domestic industry will ever produce all this. It is enough to offer a privilege to the importers of a single item of equipment to set the corresponding domestic industry back many years. It is always a double-edged sword and one should proceed carefully. However, something can be done in this area.
Vladimir Putin on the media:
The media are constantly the subject of discussion. This is a fairly complicated theme because the media are no worse and no better than we are: there are viewers and listeners so there is an information product that suits them. We can only influence the government-owned media outlets. With all the other outlets we should build a certain attitude in society to violence and other negative phenomena that we see in the media. This is the first thing.
Secondly, we should work out civilised standards that would enable the media to exercise a measure of self-restraint.
I must say that media executives have such awareness. The process began, unfortunately, with the hostage-taking tragedy at the Theatre Centre at Dubrovka in Moscow, but there is awareness of the need to exercise self-restraint, including in the moral sphere. If society itself works out these standards, they will undoubtedly be adopted by the media.
And the third thing. What can we do, with the support of regional leaders, to replace vulgar, inferior products with quality products for the mass audience? This calls for financial outlays. And that depends on us. That is not all that can be done, but these I think are the main areas. This must have government support, just like the problems of housing.