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"The authorities must learn to help business"

Olga Kurilova, Head of the Far Eastern Representative Office of ASI, on the problems and prospects of the investment climate in the Far Eastern Federal District

Four Far Eastern subjects settled in the TOP-30 of the seventh National rating of the state of the investment climate: Yakutia took 20th place, 26th and 27th - Priamurye and Kamchatka Territory, Sakhalin Oblast closed the list, which made a solid leap from 43 places. Buryatia and Primorsky Krai are located a little lower - at 32nd and 34th places. At the same time, according to Olga Kurilova, head of the Far Eastern office of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, practically all Far Eastern entities have moved to the so-called "green zone". EastRussia learned where to grow further, and what tasks will have to be solved in the difficult 2020 year.

"The authorities must learn to help business"
Photo: Natalia Mironova

- Olga Sergeevna, before much attention was paid to the practice of law enforcement - how quickly they connect to engineering networks in the regions, draw up documents, now many regions have achieved definable or close indicators. What tasks will arise now?

- Even if we take measurements of the practice of law enforcement, then not all regions have achieved optimal indicators. But there is also a new goal: to work on improving the conditions for doing business, eliminating bureaucracy, participation of specific officials in the processes. I'm talking about the digitalization of public services, when the procedures are comprehensive and parallel to each other, and the applicant takes minimal participation in the process. Ideally, it should boil down to the fact that he brings documents and takes them, and tracks their path through his personal account on the portal.

Everyone has heard stories about how a certain entrepreneur chose a plot, and after submitting documents for registration, it turned out that the land already belonged to someone. Such cases are still not uncommon. We, especially in small regions and municipalities, have a widespread principle of "friend or foe", "you are for me, I am for you," when in order to register documents, get a plot, quickly put an object into operation, you need to know the right person.

I cannot say that tomorrow the regions will be engaged in digitalization, and the day after tomorrow the situation will change. This requires time and commitment to transparency, and not everyone has them - officials understand that such an approach will reduce their influence on decision-making in the coordination of licensing procedures. But this is the only way to be a competitive region.

- Perhaps the situation with the coronavirus will quickly push you on this path, because the task of the authorities is to help the business "get in shape" as soon as possible?

- This is a topical issue in a post-pandemic. Investors have a request for support according to the principle of “one window”, but not all Far Eastern regions try to comply with it, although there are positive examples. Judging by the "test purchases", the situation is not bad in this respect, for example, in the Amur Region, Kamchatka Territory and Yakutia. I would also note the Magadan Region. There is no separate structure, and its functions were taken over by the regional ministry of economic development.

The authorities must learn to help businesses choose suitable preferential regimes, advise on legislation, and quickly connect facilities to engineering networks. A comprehensive service is important. We have been talking about this for many years, it is time for the regions to take a proactive position, and there is everything for this - both infrastructure and trained specialists.

Why were there investment agencies that are funded from budgets? They have just such functions - to help foreign and domestic investors enter the region, and the KPI of the head of this structure should depend on the number of projects involved. If the entrepreneur is assisted by an investment agency, rest assured that the next one will come for him - word of mouth works best.

- The Far Eastern regions traditionally pull down indicators such as the number of checks and administrative pressure. What do the new measurements show?

- At the end of last year, the indicator of administrative pressure on business, despite the measures taken, has grown throughout the country. If we take the Far Eastern Federal District, the situation has noticeably improved in the Magadan Region and the Trans-Baikal Territory. In Transbaikalia, this can be attributed to the arrival of a new team. A fairly strong economic bloc has been formed there, the system of work with entrepreneurs has changed. The government communicates with business, hears its requests and proposals.

Plus, entrepreneurs celebrate the work of the business ombudsman Victoria Bessonova, who also united business business associations. But, of course, there is something to work with, and it is clear that it is easier to start from the last positions.

As for the most "checking" departments, Rostrud and Rostransnadzor began to visit entrepreneurs less often, and the level of administrative pressure from their side also decreased. The number of inspections organized by the Federal Tax Service, the prosecutor's office, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, Rospotreb-, Rostec- and Rosselkhoznadzor has increased. And this after the plenipotentiary representative in the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev instructed to reduce the number of checks.

According to the results of the Rating, the level of administrative pressure, that is, cases when a company is faced with facts of corruption or inspections not envisaged by the plan, has increased. This year, businesses most often complained about the prosecutor's office and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

If we take the levels of supervision - federal, regional and municipal, then more often entrepreneurs are faced with inspections from regional departments. And this is strange, because the process is controlled by the subject, and his head can affect the quantity and quality of inspections, and the business is concerned about both of these parameters.

At the same time, entrepreneurs also say that no one is working on warning - inspectors immediately write out fines, often maximum for minor violations. In many regions, ombudsmen go to courts, where they "beat off" entrepreneurs, but all this is time, nerves and money.

- What practices are used to reduce the number of checks and administrative pressure?

- When Vasily Orlov was elected governor of the Amur Region, the region had one of the highest indicators of administrative pressure in the country - 33% of entrepreneurs reported problems. Now in the Amur region there is a council under the governor for working with control and supervisory bodies, groups have been created in the messenger, which include the heads of the KND, business associations and the governor himself. And we see that the indicator of administrative pressure in the Amur region has been in Group B for two years, this is a good result.

The platform operates in the Sakhalin Region. Issues received there are considered at the investment council under the head of the region, he is aware of the entire current situation. These examples confirm: if the head of the subject does not keep his finger on the pulse, then the number of inspections and the indicator of administrative pressure will grow, as happened in the Khabarovsk Territory. There, 67% of the surveyed companies faced inspections, this is the highest indicator in the Far Eastern Federal District. And this despite the fact that one check can destroy a business. Unfortunately, according to the reviews of entrepreneurs, their colleagues very often submit applications to law enforcement officers, trying to eliminate a competitor. They know that law enforcement agencies are likely to initiate a criminal case. In the course of the investigation, most of the "economic" cases fall apart, but while they are going on, the business dies - the company's accounts are blocked, documents are confiscated, and the opportunity to work is prevented.

Therefore, in November 2019, on behalf of President Vladimir Putin, ASI launched the digital platform Zabusiness.rf, which accepts applications from entrepreneurs who have faced undue pressure from law enforcement agencies. Every third entrepreneur complains about the unlawful initiation of a case under Art. 159 of the Criminal Code "Fraud".

I think that if entrepreneurs themselves use this opportunity to eliminate competitors less often, then there will be fewer cases.

- Another topical issue for the Far Eastern Federal District is personnel. ASI traditionally attaches great importance to it. Are there any shifts?

- In the Far East, where the migration outflow continues, the situation is difficult, and in terms of the availability of labor resources, the regions “fall” every year.

When representatives of the education sector hold their forums, congresses or meetings, there are almost never small and medium-sized businesses, respectively, educational institutions are not familiar with their requests, although they should be interested in training the personnel necessary for the economy. It is necessary to change the motto: "Education for education".

ASI published an atlas of new professions, compiled a short list of the most in-demand specialties and competencies for the new era. How many regions of the Far East have thought about training specialists in the specialties presented? Not. Moreover, we are told that it is impossible to teach this now. Now it is impossible, but very soon it will become necessary. And educational institutions should decide in the remaining time with the help of which resources and programs they will be able to instill new competencies in their students.

It is already clear that in a post-pandemic, businesses will have to cut operating costs, labor productivity will come first, and those who can work quickly and efficiently will be in demand. The Young Professionals Union (Vordskils Russia) and ASI were faced with the task of restoring the prestige of blue-collar occupations, and we have achieved this.

The regions need to understand how many specialists will be required for unfolding investment projects, in which cases they can manage on their own, where they will have to attract outside specialists.

So far, there is not a single Far Eastern entity that would work with personnel as “excellent”, there are, let's say, “good” ones. This is traditionally the Khabarovsk Territory, which several years ago became a mentor region by education and holds its positions, the Republics of Yakutia and Buryatia, partly the Amur and Sakhalin regions. The latter is in the field of personnel training for the oil and gas industry. There, by the way, they launch a "multi-university" - a project in which Sakhalin State University and the country's leading universities are involved. The double degree program at SakhSU will start operating from the new academic year.

- In 2017, the President of Russia instructed all subjects of the Far Eastern Federal District to enter the top thirty of the rating until 2020. Will it turn out that now the regions will relax and slow down the pace of work?

- If we take the last three years, the president's order has stimulated the authorities to change management processes within regional teams and, as a result, work to create conditions for business.

In our opinion, this fundamental work on managing changes in the investment climate was launched precisely with the aim of learning how to work and react in time to what is happening in the daily changing world. The work also showed that the Far East is the same macro-region of the country, which can show consistently high results in creating conditions for business and attracting investments, and its geographical position does not play a role. Therefore, the subjects of the Far East understood: in order to gain a foothold in the top 30, you need to work with this task on an ongoing basis, and not from time to time.

We are confident that if we focus on work on the availability of labor resources, digitalization of services, in principle, building work with business in municipalities, minimizing the number of unnecessary checks and administrative pressure on business, then we can consistently be in the TOP-30 regions of the country in the National rating.

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