Meeting with representatives of the Russian business community 2018-12-26 17:30:00 The Kremlin, Moscow Vladimir Putin held his traditional end-of-year meeting with representatives of the Russian business community. More than 60 business leaders, heads of private and state-owned companies, banks, entrepreneurs’ associations and unions were invited to attend. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. It has become a tradition for us to meet ahead of the New Year to discuss the development of the real economy, review results and go over what has been achieved and what has not, and why. It is very important for me, for my colleagues from the Presidential Executive Office and the Government to hear your opinion on what we are doing. That said, the major focus right now, as I said earlier at a meeting with the Government, is to implement the national programmes. Of course, businesses have a major role to play in this large-scale effort. Without them, economic development is hardly imaginable. We see in you responsible and proactive partners. Society really expects you to be involved in achieving Russia’s breakthrough needs. Let me remind you, as I have said on a number of occasions, that these national programmes will be launched as soon as the first quarter of next year, and I hope that meaningful agreements to promote national projects will be reached with you and your colleagues who are not here today, and with the business community in general. What are the priority areas of cooperation, in my opinion? Primarily, improving labour productivity. As you may know, our goal is to reach a growth rate of 5 percent on this indicator. It is crucial to upgrade production facilities by introducing state-of-the-art technology with higher efficiency. Another objective is to train professionals and help them improve their skills on a continuous basis. We have been discussing this with many of you, in fact almost with everyone here, over the past several years. The state and businesses will have to work together to deliver on these objectives. The environmental wellbeing of our citizens is another priority. We have already begun transitioning to the best available technology. This must have a positive effect on the environment, primarily in cities that face the greatest environmental stress. I would also like to propose that the leading Russian companies become part of the effort to develop a market for using a natural gas vehicle fuel, since it is a more environmentally friendly alternative, especially for Russia’s industrial centres. This will require a modern infrastructure, a network of filling stations, as well as ensuring the transition of corporate fleets, public transit and public utility transport to liquefied natural gas. Of course, we need detailed plans for all these programmes. Apart from the environmental impact, we need to look at cost effectiveness, and whether they can achieve economic change. These projects must be profitable and relevant for the market. It goes without saying that they will not be imposed on anyone as a burden. If we are able to achieve positive results, the natural gas vehicle segment will develop on its own, which could also help stabilise prices on the market for petroleum products, and the fuel market in general. Other priorities within our national programmes include introducing digital technology, developing communications systems and transport infrastructure. The government will fully support these projects. We will fine-tune development institutions and offer tools for attracting private investment in these areas. Overall, supporting Russian businesses and expanding their opportunities is a major priority that has special relevance today as Russian companies face certain external restrictions. It has to be said that behind the veil of politics, unfair competition practices and attempts to get rid of competitors and divide the market are clearly visible. This is evident in a number of specific cases that are obvious. At times, our partners do nothing to conceal this. We must respond to these steps by enhancing the competitiveness of the Russian economy on a global scale. We need to substantially accelerate industrial growth, promote research and development, as well as facilitate localisation and help Russian companies tap new markets within the country and beyond its borders. At the same time, let me emphasise that we do not intend to isolate ourselves, as we have discussed on a number of occasions, or create any barriers to international economic cooperation. We are well aware of the fact that this would undermine national development. Russia is open to trade, technology and investment ties and cooperation with our partners, especially as part of Eurasian integration. This includes efforts to improve the business climate domestically and to simplify administrative procedures. Of course, we remain committed to supporting Russian exporters, primarily in non-oil-and-gas sectors, such as high-tech and agriculture. Ministries and government agencies are to focus on this activity. We discuss this with our colleagues in the Government all the time. I hope this will be reflected in the Government’s work, as well as in the work of our trade representatives abroad. Of course, we will have an opportunity to discuss all this in an informal setting. I wish for you to stay positive and for every success in 2019. Thank you very much for your attention.