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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Flying the Flag For Russia's Entrepreneurs

At the end of November, President Boris Yeltsin was supposed to have received a report on the problems of supporting small businesses in Russia. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko had commissioned the report from the Economics Ministry, the Justice Ministry and a host of other federal authorities besides after a presidential aide had sent Shumeiko the proposals of a certain Moscow Public Committee of Federal Reform, an organization known to no one.

There is one reason why the proposals of such an obscure organization should end up gaining the attention of well-disposed, high-ranking government officials. The committee is headed by Ilya Zaslavsky, a first-wave democrat, former people's deputy of the U. S. S. R. and the former chairman of the soviet of Moscow's October district, in which Zaslavsky had promised to build "capitalism in one region". Now virtually redundant, the already-forgotten Zaslavsky has set about the task of helping small- and medium-sized businesses.

In his letter, addressed to Boris Yeltsin, Zaslavsky writes how the developing middle class will play a "significant, if not decisive role" in the elections. Zaslavsky adds that small businesses, ignored by the government, have fallen on hard times and could well gravitate toward the opposition. To stop this happening, Zaslavsky's committee along with experts of the Federal Administration of small business of the United States drew up the proposals.

The report consists of a set of draft laws and presidential decrees. The Public Committee proposes that the president form a Federal Center for the development of small business, whose director would be appointed by the Russian president, and which would be financed by the government's budget. In other words, to stop businessmen voting "incorrectly" this public center proposes urgently setting up a sort of ministry of small- and medium-sized business. The first thing that such a ministry would get would be favorable government credits and privileges in foreign trade operations.

The proponents of this hypothetical ministry have a host of requests. If Yeltsin signs the decree then the new authority should be allocated a building no smaller than 3, 000 square meters, country dachas or pensions, transport facilities and means of governmental communication. The future governmental backers of small business are asking for 500 billion rubles and 100 million dollars as well.

But even these requests pale into insignificance beside the proposal that the All-Russian Exhibition Center, the former VDNKh, be handed over to this obscure pro-business center. The exhibition center is a magnificent, extensive park in northern Moscow with dozens of superb buildings. Without doubt it is one of Moscow's great attractions, the market value of which easily exceeds a billion dollars. It may even be that the whole defense of small business is based upon trying to get control of the exhibition center.

The most interesting thing here is that this highly peculiar draft has already gathered a lot of the necessary official stamps. Only one signature is still needed - that of First Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar. Gaidar, it is true, said that if such a draft should end up on his desk, he is hardly likely to sign it. However, Gaidar is not the only first deputy prime minister in the Russian government.

Russian entrepreneurs cannot have any idea of the struggle that is going on to get the government to look after their concerns.