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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Urges Caution on Crisis Plan

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cautioned his party, United Russia, on a series of anti-crisis proposals in a meeting with its senior members Wednesday.

The meeting was part of a national debate on the government's anti-crisis plan, which was released last month.

Putin, the party's chairman, said the government must carefully study any moves to restrict retailers' markups, saying experts hadn't come up with definitive models for imposing such caps. He said regional authorities would be in a better position to handle the problem than the federal government.

Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the party's supreme council who effectively runs United Russia, said the anti-crisis measures should seek to prevent large markups that can now reach 80 percent.

Putin also reacted coldly to a proposal that the government allow more enterprises to use simplified tax procedures, which ease the paperwork burden on small businesses. Gryzlov said the maximum turnover a company can have to qualify for the simplified procedures should be increased threefold, to 60 billion rubles ($1.77 billion).

Putin conceded that the threshold should be higher but said the government would move "very carefully" on the issue to prevent large companies such as retail networks from splitting up -- on paper -- into a handful of separate stores.

Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina proposed raising the threshold to 100 billion rubles at a meeting on Tuesday with the small business lobbying group Opora.

Russia will not close off its food market to imports, Putin said in response to another proposal from the party. "This would lead to an exorbitant growth of prices inside the country for the food staples," he said.

Instead, the government is extending an aid package of 182 billion rubles to farmers this year, including one that would support cattle breeding, he said.

Putin also defended the government's lavish infusion of cash into the banking system in recent months. "That we gave too much money to the banking sector is not true," he said. "We gave precisely enough to save the country's financial system and citizens' deposits."

He also criticized several governors, whom he did not name, for poor knowledge of the situation in their regions, such as unemployment figures.

Some of Gryzlov's other proposals went without a comment from Putin. In one of them, Gryzlov said Russia should ignore foreign rating agencies' assessments of its companies, the stock market and economy and rely instead on their local competition.

In another such proposal, Gryzlov urged the government to encourage tenants to hire skilled managers to maintain their apartment buildings.

The measure could create up to 1 million jobs and help people reduce their maintenance bills, he said.

Gryzlov repeated criticism of a proposal to lift export duties on timber for companies that are implementing large investment projects. "I think it unacceptable. It would create a window for looting our country," he said.

Gryzlov also reiterated some of the party's proposals, such as developing internal tourism, which he announced at a party leadership meeting last week.