President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends and colleagues.
Our meetings ahead of the New Year have become a good tradition. Today I would like to congratulate you on the upcoming holiday.
The past year has been difficult for everyone, for the whole country, for society, for business and for government at all levels. In this connection, I would like to note that a sharp decline in oil prices was of great importance for Russian companies and banks operating in conditions of limited access to external capital markets. In addition, all these factors gave rise to currency fluctuations.
Despite the complicated market conditions and objective difficulties, you were able to ensure your companies’ steady operation and preserved your workforce. We have carefully analysed what is happening at specific enterprises, and we can see that even where there are temporary difficulties, you have done everything to keep the staff on, even if it meant reducing their working hours. In general, I believe this is absolutely the right approach: it is vital to treat people with great care, particularly highly qualified personnel.
Undoubtedly, the business community is adapting to the new difficult conditions. The main thing is that our companies have not lost sight of their development strategies. They are improving their efficiency, investing in new manufacturing capacities and seeking to develop new markets.
I would like to highlight the close attention you pay to developing new technologies and producing high added value goods. This is truly a key factor of competition both inside the country and abroad.
Here today we see both owners of our major private companies and heads of publicly owned companies. You are implementing large-scale projects in the fuel and energy sector, in industry, agriculture, the IT industry and in the financial sector and banking.
I would like to say that your active presence on global markets, your new breakthrough technologies and the unique products you are making – all this contributes to Russia’s authority and prestige, to its greater sovereignty. We see great potential for growth in the national companies and will support the leadership ambitions of our businesses, and their striving for success.
I have already said that our response to external limitations is greater entrepreneurial freedom and the protection of property and rights of all those who are working and conducting their business honestly. We intend to improve the activity of law enforcement, investigative and judicial bodies. To expand the capabilities of national businesses we also intend to develop economic ties with other countries and take part in integration processes.
I have already mentioned our plans to begin consultations between the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member states and ASEAN regarding the possibility of an economic partnership. This is a huge market. I would like to ask you to come up with your proposals regarding the configuration of this cooperation and the objectives of such a possible association.
We have a lot of work ahead of us and I am certain that we will proceed as partners in the interests of the country’s development.
My congratulations once again to all of you and best wishes for the New Year.