In his characteristic frank manner, he answered the questions of Nikolai Kruzhilin, talking about the economic situation in Russia and what needs to be done so that the country can cope with the problems that the coronavirus has brought without too much turmoil.
– Mikhail Gennadievich, the last time we met was three years ago, in the dock era. What touched you as a politician and economist, if we talk about assessing the actions of the authorities in the midst of this period?
– I do not understand why the authorities decided that during COVID-19 they can ignore the laws. There are two legal regimes for such provisions – an emergency regime, when power belongs to the structures of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and a quarantine regime, when power belongs to doctors. We chose the third: the high alert mode, which, in principle, simply cannot last long, because it is by its nature an intermediate mode of readiness for something. If this “something” happens, an emergency or quarantine is introduced, if not, everything returns to its former tracks. We are faced with a legally unnatural hybrid – “self-isolation”. It happens to monks, patients with agoraphobia and no one else, and in Russia, many regions have put their residents, in fact, under house arrest and called it self-isolation. This is not just nonsense – it is monstrous arbitrariness.
Another shocking feature of coronavirus is that the headquarters for the fight against coronavirus did not include professionals – epidemiologists and virologists, who alone could give an adequate assessment of the situation. But the authorities, it seems, did not need adequacy from the very beginning.
– The choice of the “intermediate mode” was not made by chance?
– Of course. After all, this regime does not provide social support, despite the deprivation of huge masses of people of their livelihoods. After all, it is clear that a person locked at home and deprived of work should be guaranteed to receive at least a real living wage, simply because the state in the Constitution promises him the right to life. And the economic component of this right is a guarantee of a real living wage. As under Soviet rule: if a person was able to reach the cash register, he received his 90 rubles.
A natural step of the state would be the introduction of anti-crisis measures: providing, on a declarative basis, a real living wage for those deprived of their livelihood and having no savings, freeing them from utility, credit and tax payments with the prospect of a complete cancellation of debts. But such measures were simply inaccessible to the bureaucracy of the domestic assembly.
– By the way, about business. In Russia, due to the pandemic, he was also waiting for support.
– Business deprived of the possibility of existence should be supported at least as a form of self-organization of people who feed themselves and do not sit on the neck of other taxpayers. The normal principle of support: micro, small and medium-sized businesses must, on a declarative basis, receive a loan to replenish working capital in the amount of at least a quarter of the annual dock turnover at a zero interest rate. But no one even hinted about it.
There was piecewise discontinuous support, but it is completely insignificant: now, according to the results of a survey of the business ombudsman Titov, almost 30% of enterprises are on the verge of closure. The state should not behave like that in an emergency, organized by it (taking into account the “optimization of medicine”).
– Many believe that no help came because the country’s budget was depleted. This is true?
“The federal budget is drowning in money, and last year our budget reserves grew, not shrank. Remember, in 2016 Dmitry Medvedev said: “There is no money, but you are holding on”? At that time, 7.3 trillion rubles were lying in the federal budget without movement. There were enough of them to solve, without exaggeration, any socio-economic problems.
Over the past coronavirus year, according to the official reports of the Ministry of Finance, the balance in the budget accounts increased by 200 billion rubles – to 15.6 trillion. With this money, not only the world’s best education, medicine and the FSB can be organized, but also to solve all these problems at the same time, and even rebuild the country. Instead, people are rapidly becoming poorer. In the fall of 2020, insurers estimated the share of people with an income of up to 25 thousand rubles per person per month (which roughly corresponds to the real cost of living) at 72.3%.
However, the Bank of Russia, in conditions when the country is in an absolute crisis, is pursuing an extremely tough financial policy, literally wiping out the country with an artificially created monetary famine.
– Afraid that it will be worse, or saving money for the future?
– The Ministry of Finance is saving up. Or, like an old woman, “coffins” – not only for themselves, but for the whole of Russia. Or for the junta of liberal fascists, who can, like in Ukraine, seize power if the liberals of the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Russia bring the country to the Maidan. Or they just went crazy there – I don’t know the answer. But these people, pursuing an absolutely cannibalistic policy, do not seem to be like crazy.
– You said about anti-crisis measures, but what should be done in the working mode so that the prosperity of Russians would increase?
– To begin the transition from the official living wage to the real one – from 12 thousand rubles with kopecks to 25 thousand. This is not even a question of the budget, since the bulk of this money, having flowed through trade and taxes, will return to the budget system. And this money has not yet been plundered or squandered.
Second, we need a comprehensive modernization of infrastructure, which will sharply reduce costs and increase business activity.
Third. To prevent all the money from going into corruption, it must be limited by the example of the Italians (if a bribe-giver testifies in court against the one who extorted a bribe from him, he is exempted from responsibility) and Americans (if a member of organized crime does not cooperate with the investigation, his family will be confiscated all assets except the minimum). But, I think, let’s hesitate a little longer – and we’ll just have to shoot, as in China.
Fourth, it is necessary to limit the arbitrariness of the monopolies. Now prices are rising, as everyone sees that the system can crumble. Corrupt officials began to steal, as on the last day, and monopolists – to inflate prices, as on the last day.
It is necessary to preserve jobs here for our citizens, and not for guest workers, to normalize the tax system, which today requires the maximum from the poor and the minimum from the rich. The excess consumption tax must be higher than the income tax in order to be profitable to invest in a business.
– What would you do with 20% VAT, which is called “the most criminal tax”?
– Reduce to 10% – the level of criminal costs. It will become unprofitable to leave it, which will bring additional money to the budget and immediately raise business activity. And then abolish altogether – this is a tax to suppress complex industries.
– Perhaps you have a recipe for how to lower gasoline prices? The way they grow does not fit into any gate.
– It is enough to cancel the “tax maneuver” introduced in 2018. At that moment, duties were removed from the export of crude oil, and its processing was overloaded with taxes, making it unprofitable – and the state is now subsidizing the refinery! It is correct (and not only in the oil industry) to introduce an escalation of rates: the higher the level of processing of goods, the lower the taxes and the lower the export duties, and to exempt small producers from taxation altogether. In China, if you are a manufacturer, everything is simple for you: you get a loan and, if you do not return it, it will be prolonged. And the export of finished goods is encouraged and raw materials are suppressed.
– In conclusion, Mikhail Gennadievich, I would like to hear something that would inspire optimism to our readers. For example, according to the forecast of the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, we will pass the peak of inflation in March 2021. What do you think?
– Translated into Russian, this means: they think that inflation will go down. This is possible, since the main factor of inflation is
the arbitrariness of the monopolies, and it is restrained only by the poverty of the population. And the authorities are definitely not going to fight it. After all, the higher the poverty, the slower the rise in prices – this is the essence of the whole liberal “anti-inflationary” policy. But even this respite is temporary. In autumn, before the elections, the authorities will be forced to give voters some money. Those will get into the consumer market, and the monopolists will take them for themselves by increasing prices.
– Not very optimistic … Well, thanks to you, we understand in which direction our state should move so as not to disappear among other world economies. Thanks for the conversation!
Interviewed by Nikolay Kruzhilin