Putin offers gas to Europe, COVID-19 vaccination to foreigners in SPIEF address

Putin offers gas to Europe, COVID-19 vaccination to foreigners in SPIEF address

15:45 - Russian President pointed out that Moscow was ready to open the borders to foreign nationals seeking to receive Russian coronavirus vaccines and announced the completion of the first string of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

The global economy may see the highest growth rates in decades following a decline caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while Russia’s economy is already approaching pre-crisis levels, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, addressing the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Friday.

He pointed out that Moscow was ready to open the borders to foreign nationals seeking to receive Russian coronavirus vaccines, announced the completion of the first string of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and presented a new package of measures aimed at supporting the people and businesses, which includes moves to extend a low-interest mortgage program and launch a new loan mechanism for businesses.

TASS has summed up the key takeaways from the president’s address.

Growth prospects
"Despite last year’s decline, which experts view as the deepest since World War II, it is safe to say that the global economy is returning to normal. The global GDP is expected to be unusually high this year, reaching levels unseen since the 1970s." However, the economic recovery process is uneven, "which creates serious political, economic, and social risks."

Vaccine distribution
"As of now… hundreds of millions of people simply don’t have access to vaccines because their countries have neither technologies nor production facilities nor funds to purchase vaccines. So far, those capable of assisting these countries have been doing little. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, self comes first."

Vaccination of foreigners
The Russian cabinet needs to consider the possibility of arranging paid vaccination for foreign nationals in Russia. Besides, the federal government, regional authorities and businesses have been instructed "to work together on vaccination programs for those who come to Russia as labor migrants."

Completion of Nord Stream 2
"I am happy to announce that today, two and a half hours ago, the laying of the first string of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was successfully completed. The work on the second string goes on. The entire line of work, including the offshore section, has been finished." "Gazprom is ready to fill Nord Stream 2 with gas. "We are ready to implement similar high-tech projects in the future together with our partners from Europe and other countries. We expect that the logic of mutual benefit will inevitably prevail over various artificial barriers stemming from the current political situation."

Environmental protection
"We have often had to hear that Russia does not seem interested in solving global environmental problems. Well, what can I say to that? This is nonsense, a myth and even a blatant twisting of facts." "We have set a goal to reduce the net greenhouse emissions accumulated in Russia to a level lower than in Europe within the next 30 years. I am sure that it’s an ambitious but achievable goal." The Russian cabinet is expected to develop a detailed plan of action by October 1, 2021. "The annual revenues of the new climate-related sector of the Russian market… can exceed $50 bln in the near future." There is a need to elaborate criteria for such projects and establish a system to assess their results. "We need to put aside political and all other differences and refrain from turning the transition to carbon neutrality into a tool of unfair competition." "All of our countries share a responsibility for today’s world and the lives of future generations."

Low-interest mortgage
Russia’s low-interest mortgage program "was a temporary anti-crisis measure, however, it should not… be abruptly cut short." "It was suggested that the program be extended until July 1, 2022, but its terms will be changed, the interest rate will grow from 6.5% to 7% and the three mln ruble ($41,000) mortgage limit will be the same for all Russian regions. The six percent mortgage program will be extended to include families with one child born after January 1, 2018, while it used to include families with or and more kids. The mortgage limit will be 12 mln rubles ($164,700) in Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Moscow and Leningrad regions, and six mln rubles ($82,300) in other regions of the country.

Fast payment system
"I would like to point out that all of the so-called systemically important banks in the country are expected to join the fast payment system by September 1. However, I believe that it would be right for them to do it earlier, by July 1." Until the end of the year, small and medium-sized businesses will receive refunds for the commission they pay for using the system when selling goods and services to individuals. Banks will also get refunds. "There is a need to use budget resources to support them so they don’t get discouraged."

Regional development
"We cannot have regions without prospects, which aren’t involved in economic growth." The goal is to ensure a "transparent, predictable and comfortable" atmosphere for businesses and private investors in all Russian regions by 2024, as well as launch new projects. "Every region needs to clarify its priority development areas." This is a goal for the government to pursue. "Please don’t act like it doesn’t concern the federal authorities. It concerns everyone."

Antimonopoly control
"We need to ease the clearly excessive antimonopoly control of small and medium-sized businesses. Many limits in this area haven’t been revised for quite a while and they are no longer in line with the current economic realities." The plan is to control only companies with yearly revenues of over 800 mln rubles ($10.9 mln), up from today’s 400 mln rubles ($5.5 mln), and merger and acquisition deals worth 800 mln rubles.

Supporting businesses, employment
A new loan support mechanism for small and medium-sized businesses - the so-called umbrella guarantees of the Federal Corporation for the Development of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses - is set to be launched in 2021. It will make it possible for businesses to get loans totaling 600 bln rubles ($8.2 bln) by 2024. It has been proposed that companies with yearly revenues of up to two bln rubles ($27.5 mln) be exempted from paying VAT. They will also be able to reduce their insurance payments to 15% if their staffing level rises to 1,500 (up from the current 250.) "In addition, nationwide, I am handing down instructions that a permanent program be launched in the near future in order to support youth employment, including measures to facilitate youth entrepreneurship."

SPIEF
"We are pleased that it is Russia that is hosting the first global business event after a long forced break where members of the global business community can communicate with each other not only using advance telecommunication technologies but in-person as well.".