Between foreign and insufficient // The requirement of import substitution in the absence of choice complicates the life of the regions

Bans and restrictions on state purchases of imports in order to support domestic suppliers sometimes impede the purchase of specialized equipment in the regions. Thus, the authorities of the Volgograd region are dissatisfied with the ineffectiveness of the procurement of medical equipment according to the current rules; in a number of regions, Kommersant confirmed the existence of such problems or avoided a “sensitive issue”. Government customers would like to prescribe additional product requirements in order to get the supplies they need, but regulators see this opportunity as a loophole for purchasing foreign goods and prefer to adjust the acceptable characteristics of the supplies manually after complaints.

Protectionist measures to support domestic producers sometimes hinder economic activity in the regions. So, according to Kommersant’s information, the first deputy governor of the Volgograd region, Valery Bakhin, appealed to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova with a request to soften the requirements for the procurement of medical equipment. As the official explains in the letter, the region is currently implementing a program to modernize primary health care, including the re-equipment of district hospitals. At the same time, prohibitions and restrictions apply to technologically complex heavy medical equipment (X-ray machines, mammography, etc.): such purchases should be made by customers according to the catalog of goods and services without the ability to indicate additional characteristics (consumer properties, including functional, technical, high-quality, operational). However, for some goods, the catalog does not indicate any characteristics, and as a result, the region can purchase only equipment in the minimum configuration, which “does not allow for the accuracy of diagnostics and reduces the quality of medical care,” the letter says.

Problems with the quality of supplies due to restrictions and prohibitions are also recognized in other regions. “It’s something like this. But we are not ready to give a detailed commentary on this topic. This is a problem at the federal level, ”the St. Petersburg Healthcare Committee said. In the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the federal state-owned enterprise (FKP) Chukotka Airports faced restrictions on purchases. In 2019, the transport prosecutor’s office obliged the company to install bird repellents. FKP planned to purchase three sets of bioacoustic repeller companies from the United States, but due to restrictions on the purchase of imports in April 2020, they had to choose domestic devices, which turned out to be analogues “only conditionally”. As a result, instead of 1.1 million rubles. the enterprise spent 720 thousand rubles on scarers, but the effectiveness of this purchase in Chukotka is considered doubtful. Some regions chose not to comment on Kommersant’s request. In particular, the Committee for Industrial Policy of St. Petersburg said that they will not have time to answer “not the easiest question.”

Experts constantly point to the negative consequences of restricting competition for the sake of supporting domestic producers. The defense industry lobby, in turn, insists on purchasing Russian goods, albeit of “lower quality”. Probably, the problems with the mass reorientation of state demand for Russian supplies are also not isolated: the government is preparing “measures of influence” on industrial companies for the supply of low-quality products and creating a system for controlling the quality of goods (see Kommersant, May 12).

In the Volgograd region, they believe that the solution to the problem may be the ability of the customer to indicate additional requirements for the product in addition to those indicated in the catalog – Tatyana Golikova instructed the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economy to consider the issue (Kommersant has the document). But the Ministry of Finance does not support the idea of ​​amendments: the current rules allow eliminating a loophole that allows customers to purchase foreign goods due to the excessive characteristics of radio-electronic products. “The proposal … does not correspond to the instructions of the government,” – stated in a letter signed by the deputy head of the department Alexei Lavrov. At the same time, the Ministry of Finance is ready to consider adjustments to the current catalog items. The Ministry of Industry and Trade explains that in the absence of a description of the required product in the catalog, the customer forms it independently, and reminds that restrictions on import purchases are not set if there are no Russian analogues of the same class. The Ministry of Economy considers it necessary to appoint several departments responsible for the formation of the catalog of goods, now the Ministry of Finance is engaged in this at a special council, which includes the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Health and other departments. Recall that the defense industry lobby also insists on expanding the powers of the Finance Ministry colleagues from other departments – the corresponding bill has already been prepared by parliamentarians (see Kommersant of April 20).

Diana Galieva; Elena Bolshakova, St. Petersburg; Irina Timofeeva, Anadyr

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