Staunton, April 17 – In his first three addresses to the nation on the pandemic, Vladimir Putin focused on issues important to him – rescheduling the vote on the constitutional amendments and putting off the Victory Day parades. Only in the fourth did he talk about helping business. But his offer is both a trap and a deception, Leonid Volkov says.
The Kremlin leader set so many hurdles through which any business seeking help would have to jump, many of them already inaccessible to most small Russian businesses, that there is little chance many will be able to get aid. Putin will appear generous, the Navalny ally says, without having to give anything (blog.newsru.com/article/18apr2020/pomosh_ubivaet).
As Volkov puts it in a commentary entitled “Assistance Kills,” Putin promised to provide aid to small businesses under five conditions: that they are part of “a suffering branch,” have still kept “no fewer than 90 percent of their employees, paid them the same, ask for assistance after May 1, receive it after May 18, and get 12,130 rubles (190 US dollars) for each once.
“In order to receive ‘help’ from Putin, first a business will have to somehow show that it is part of ‘a suffering branch’” even though what that constitutes and how one would prove it are left open. Moreover, Putin’s offer came only three weeks into the lockdown when most firms have had to let go far more than 10 percent of their workers and can’t qualify.
If “by some miracle,” the employer has kept his employees and continued to pay them even if there is no work, he must nonetheless wait until May 1 to submit an application; and if it is approved, he will possibly get assistance by May 18 – yet another month into the crisis when he is somehow supposed to keep paying salaries even though his firm has no income.
The amount of money Putin promises is “absurdly” low given the costs the businessman will have to incur to get it. Indeed, no sensible businessman would agree to pay people for two months when there is no money coming in the door in the hope – and it is only a hope – of getting one month of their pay back.
What is “completely obvious, Volkov says, is that “such ‘help’ will certainly kill those who decided to try to make use of it by keeping going for another month.” Putin will get good press, but such Russian businesses will die.