The first day of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) boiled down to discussions around the digitalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The government hopes that this will whitewash the small business sector, which for the sake of efficiency often “goes into the shadows” – in return, the authorities declare their readiness to build a broad and proactive system of support for companies based on their business performance. The companies themselves, although they recognize digitalization as inevitable, are not ready to invest in it on their own. A partial solution to the problem should be preferential lending programs for the introduction of domestic IT developments in companies.
The first day of SPIEF 2021 was opened by the Russian Forum of Small and Medium Enterprises, its central topic was digitalization of small business, the inevitability of which manifested itself against the backdrop of COVID-19. Details were discussed at once at many venues and in a plenary discussion. It was about both the unwillingness of the companies themselves to transform business processes, and about the request for state assistance in mastering technologies and, in general, adjusting the model of state support.
The government’s opinion at the SPIEF plenary session was formulated by First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov: business itself is not able to identify support priorities in the long term, the government will do this by providing proactive support to companies based on data analysis about them. One of the key questions for the government due to limited resources is in choosing a model: to create services demanded by companies or prototypes of resources that will help change business technologies.
In general, the state is preparing a wide range of services for SMEs.
In many respects, support after the reform of development institutions will be concentrated in the SME Corporation JSC – it presented an updated strategy. The plans are to create a digital platform for SMEs operating in a “one window” mode (consolidation of all services necessary for a business). The selection of such support measures will be proactive – based on the scoring of companies: for example, regions will be able to track economically active companies using their TIN and provide targeted assistance.
However, the request for support is broader: according to a survey by the SME Corporation, every third entrepreneur wants it (in the Russian Federation, let us recall, there are 5.8 million SMEs and 2.4 million self-employed), half of which speaks about the need to expand access to finance. The SME Corporation itself will increase the amount of guarantee support to RUB 2.2 trillion. in 2021–2025 (in the previous design – RUB 1.6 trillion in 2016–2020) and will reduce the limits for recipients to increase coverage. The Bank of Russia will create a complete line of financial instruments for small businesses, said the head of the regulator Elvira Nabiullina, – in the interaction of the financial sector with SMEs, a service model is also being implemented, including the launch of a factoring system and simplification of work in the fast payment system. Also, the Central Bank is working to increase the availability of bond and equity financing.
The attraction of other actors besides the state to support small business is still facing problems.
Thus, Deputy Finance Minister Alexei Lavrov noted that state-owned companies are reluctant to involve small businesses in their purchases, and the department is forced to switch to their direct regulation: the government is already discussing an increase in the mandatory share of purchases from SMEs from 20% to 30%.
According to the Deputy Head of the Treasury Anna Katamadze, direct regulation of the share of purchases from SMEs is effective: the volume of such supplies reached 3.9 trillion rubles, another 2.9 trillion rubles. ensured direct procurement from SMEs. “This is 30-50% of the payment for the current year,” the official explained.
It should be noted that although the SME Corporation on Wednesday declared its goals to expand the scope of business, the government’s priorities are shifting towards targeted support for businesses capable of ensuring economic growth. Digitalization in the government is seen as a tool for obtaining data about companies to set up such targeted support and whitewash the business. “Small businesses are used to using shadow as their main resource,” explained Andrey Belousov. As an example, he cited the fitness industry, where “there are no employees at all”, which allows you to avoid paying taxes and social contributions. The forced exit of companies from the shadows in 2020 for the sake of receiving state aid brought 20% more personal income tax to the budget, admitted the head of the Federal Tax Service Daniil Egorov.
Companies recognize the need for digitalization to increase competitiveness, but are not ready to invest in whitewashing themselves. 92% of companies believe that this is the task of the state and development institutions, – such data at the session on digitalization of SMEs was given by the deputy head of Otkritie Bank Nadia Cherkasova. The government expects that its concessional lending programs can partially stimulate companies to digitalize. According to the deputy head of the Ministry of Digital Industry Maxim Parshin, business can already take out a loan of 5 million rubles or more. at 1–5%, subject to the introduction of domestic software, which will de facto support the promising high-tech sector. The need for state support from such companies has grown noticeably in recent years, noted the head of the School of Technological Entrepreneurship Sergei Borisov: according to the latest data, 77% of fast-growing companies have used it, and 84% rely on it.