20 Questions with Vladimir Putin. On business big and smallOn March 13, 2020 by Raul Dinwiddie
Business could extend a helping hand. What do you have in mind? If it were more active in the country’s affairs, then there would be investment, then the economy would begin to grow accordingly. I can crack down on business right away and tell them they are irresponsible. This is not the case. Russian business in general has changed a great deal over the past ten years even. The government is therefore obliged to create conditions for investment – this is definitely true. Better conditions must be created for controlling inflation. We have been doing certain things in this respect. In the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, we are in 28th place, it’s a big improvement, huge. This indicates that the government has been doubling down on its efforts, which are yielding positive results. And the amount of investment is growing. In dollar terms, our investment in the beginning of the 2000s totaled around one billion dollars. Then there were tens of billions. Now direct investment is more than $540 billion. You know, it looks like you see businessmen as swindlers by definition. Well, there are… There are some… Certain grounds for this. I’m saying this with a particular emphasis. What grounds are there? Firstly, because the so-called new business throughout the 2000s was related to trade. Almost entirely. Not only in Russia. No, I disagree. In many so-called developed market economies, small business plays a very big role. In the service sector? Not only there. In manufacturing, too. We have been trying to achieve what is already a reality in developed market economies. Namely: adjacent to major companies there are dozens and even hundreds of small businesses, which serve the interests of those major companies. What are we doing now? In fact, we are forcing our major companies, in particular partly state-owned ones, to conclude contracts with small businesses. Trillions are at stake. And it’s really working. The structure of small businesses has begun to change. Small businesses exist not only in retail trade – some kiosks or pavilions, it’s not only about buying low and selling high. Now there are research businesses ventures, too. And small businesses in manufacturing. High-tech small businesses. They are rather effective. The export of these services and goods is growing, too. This is what makes me think we are moving in the right direction in principle, although progress is still, unfortunately, too slow. Did I understand correctly, that ‘retailer’ is equal to ‘swindler’? In people’s minds. Don’t we say so? But I am talking about you. I am part of the same people, you know. I see. So, honestly speaking, I mean, to be really honest. We all think so. But I… Have you ever been swindled, cheated? Have you ever been swindled, cheated? Me? You. Well, of course. You yourself have surely been swindled and cheated, too. And what happened to those who did it? Nothing. You know, there was not much you could do during Soviet times. You got swindled, cheated and just lived with it… But what if you caught them on the spot? Well, you know, I… First of all, it’s not like I got cheated every day, but if I happened to notice it, there never was anything too serious. I preferred not to lock horns. Making a scene is not a good idea, just isn’t worth it. Leaving small business aside, although it is obviously going through hard times, too. Now, there is this, what is it called again? The “regulatory guillotine”… Yes. Starting from January 1, 2021. How much time is left before that? A whole year. How many will survive till then and how many won’t? You see, Andrey, hitting the target is what it’s all about. It is a very tricky thing. What is a “regulatory guillotine”? Take the very same retail trade, for instance. Especially the food retail sector or some other sectors that affect people’s lives. You could cancel everything to the point where hospitals would be working round the clock to accommodate patients with food poisonings. We should be very cautious about it. The same applies to medicines and so on and so forth. Take fire safety. I know that the fire services are criticized a lot, but there are safety matters involved. Whenever a major tragedy occurs, we instantly begin to tighten the screws everywhere. In the meantime, it’s not about tightening or loosening rules – what we need is optimal fire safety requirements. The same goes for everything else. Therefore, cancelling everything at once is very dangerous. But leaving everything unchanged is no longer possible, either. That is why, during the 18 months of preparation time, the government has been and will continue working hard on this issue. What about big business, investments? Foreign investments? Who will agree to take risks at a time when memories are still fresh – it all began with Khodorkovsky, then there was Magnitsky, and now we have Calvey. To dot the i’s: Khodorkovsky is a fraudster. His people were involved not just in fraudulent transactions, but in murders. his is the real problem. They were convicted in accordance with Russian law. Khodorkovsky’s personal involvement in contract killings was not proven, but the killings did take place. They were proven, including killings by their security service. Do you think that staffers of the corporate security service were killing people at their own initiative, of their own volition? I do not think so. It just does not work that way. However, if it’s not proven, then it’s not proven. But his other illegal activities were proven, hence his prison sentence. As for Calvey, the law enforcement agencies and the court are looking into this matter. Law enforcement agencies primarily … And I believe that… Well, that is a classic response. There can be no other response, because I cannot say if he is guilty or not until there is a well-founded and… Well, the West is watching… Good for them. We should focus on what we are doing ourselves, paying no attention to the West or the East. We are paddling our own canoe. How much money… And we need to proceed from our country’s legislation and the supremacy of Russian law. How much money has flowed out of the country over this period of time? Not very much. Not very much? If we bear in mind how much money has flowed into the country. It can be calculated. The outflow of capital does exist, it is quite evident, but the picture varies from year to year. Generally speaking, it is a natural process – capital inflow and outflow. The more stable the rules of the game are, the more reliable the protection of investment and property we provide – the more confident investors will feel.