The meeting was held via videoconference.
Opening remarks by Mikhail Mishustin:
Good morning, colleagues.
Yesterday, the President addressed the nation and announced more days off, through 30 April. This step is absolutely justified and is designed primarily to protect the people's health.
The governors of the Russian regions have been given new authority to decide on the best workhours for enterprises and offices in the region and individual municipalities. It is important to carefully weigh everything and determine the essential enterprises that will remain open in each region. Even in this difficult situation, the country’s economic life should not stop. If more stringent restrictions are necessary for major companies, schools or universities, they will need to be agreed upon with the Government.
Colleagues, I want to make a point and say that today we need to make decisions and act based on the specifics of a particular region rather than to stick to one blueprint for the entire country. We must take into account the economic situation and the population density in each region. We need to evaluate the extent of the spread of the infection in real time. Most importantly – and the President said this expressly – we need to rely on the professional opinions of the sanitary-epidemiological services.
I also want the heads of the regions and federal authorities to make sure the hospitals are fully equipped for admitting infected patients and have the necessary supplies of medicines and medical devices. The peak of the pandemic is yet to come, and a worst-case scenario cannot be ruled out.
The government is doing its best to slow the spread of this infection. We make proactive decisions to support healthcare on a daily basis. We have repeatedly issued instructions to prepare the necessary number of beds and to assess needs, including funding. As you may be aware, this instruction was approved by Ms Golikova on 24 March. A week ago, based on estimates made by the regions, we allocated over 33 billion roubles for bringing in additional beds to infectious hospitals. The Finance Ministry made sure each region received them. However, certain governors are complaining about the lack of funds and medical facilities being unprepared for patients. This is unacceptable. Colleagues, this is part of your personal responsibility, and you can’t shift the blame to your deputies or the regional healthcare ministers. This work needs to be seen to completion.
Today, I want us to discuss the data to be provided by the Healthcare Ministry on fulfilling my instruction regarding additional beds for infectious disease wards, lung ventilators and personal protection equipment to be ready in each and every Russian region.
We are also gradually simplifying the import of essential medicines and medical supplies.
I signed a Government resolution on exempting these imports in Russia from VAT if businesspeople donate them to hospitals that are treating coronavirus patients. We are talking about test systems, protective masks, overalls, air purification devices and non-contact thermometres, and mechanical lung ventilation devices and drugs that can be used to treat the coronavirus infection. I especially want to emphasise that the VAT exemption will apply retroactively to medical goods and drugs imported since 16 March.
In addition, as you may be aware, we have set customs duties on importing essential goods to zero, including medicines and medical goods. Some businesspeople are actually donating their own money (I know this for a fact, and many governors have told me so) and engaging in charity. Of course, this money should be used as planned and spent entirely on purchasing medical equipment or medicines, rather than be taken by the state in the form of taxes or customs duties.
As we continue to fight this dangerous disease, the doctors, nurses and junior medical staff who face it daily and who selflessly go about their professional duties should be protected in the first place.
Colleagues, please do your best to ensure medical workers’ safety. Also, make sure regional hospitals are fully staffed with key specialists, including infectious disease specialists, pulmonologists and anesthesiologists. They bear the brunt of this difficult effort.
Of course, people want to stay healthy and keep their jobs and salaries. So, we are doing our best as part of the package of laws signed by the President that are designed to alleviate the situation in the economy. I issued an instruction to complete, within 24 hours, the drafting of the by-laws that are needed for these laws to take full effect.
First and foremost, they are designed to support small- and medium-sized businesses in the most affected sectors. In particular, we are providing deferrals on lease and tax payments, excluding VAT, as well as deferrals on insurance premiums for micro-businesses. We have introduced a moratorium on bankruptcy.
In addition, we are launching two special lending programmes which should help small businesses tide over this difficult period. This includes a six-month delay in loan repayment with payments of no more than one third of the interest rate, as well as interest-free loans for paying salaries to employees. We will provide a deferral on lease payments for leases on publicly-owned and commercial property. During the next six months, small firms will be making lease payments based on their actual revenue, and they will repay the debt accumulated over this time within 12 months in installments.
To take into account the interests of the commercial property owners who are willing to work under these arrangements, we recommend that the regions provide them with property tax rebates. In addition, we will issue a ban on disconnecting small and medium-sized enterprises from utilities and electricity, even if they don’t pay the bills on time. No penalties will be charged on this debt, and it will also be possible to repay it in installments.
Other measures to support SMEs include automatic renewal of existing permits and licenses. The Government will draw up a specific list, additionally. To promote continuing sales for small businesses, we are suggesting that state-owned companies not reduce their purchases from small and medium-sized businesses (there’s a standard amount, as you are aware). Payment deadlines should be observed strictly as well and not exceed 15 days.
Let’s get down to the discussion as we have many items on the agenda.