In the group of macroeconomic restrictions the topmost place, by its negative effect on the development of enterprises, is inflation: 73.4 % of the respondents pointed to rapid growth of domestic prices as being a significant obstacle, and only 2.2 % did not consider inflation to be a restricting factor. Next came the factor of “unpredictability of the government economic policy” (53.2 % è 5.0 % respectively), followed by competition with cheap imports (45.3 % and 21.7 %). In this group only the ruble’s exchange rate was named by the majority of respondents either as an insignificant obstacle to their development (32.8 % of the answers) or as no obstacle at all (27.3 %).
Also of interest are the differences between the answers offered by directors of enterprises depending on how they estimated their prospects for increasing output (Table 2). Significant27 differences are noted in the estimations of the effects of many of the factors in all the three groups of restrictions (resource-linked, administrative and macroeconomic). On the whole, the optimistically-minded directors (i.e. those expecting an increase in their production) gave more positive estimations of their economic environment and noted less restricting factors with regard to their production development that those pessimistic counterparts (i.e. those expecting a fall in output). The difference in the corresponding balances of answers was between 8 and 20 p. p.
Thus, among the optimistic directors the balance of answers with regard to the factor “quality and cost of transport services” was 4.9 %, whereas among the pessimistic ones – 18.1 %. The optimistic directors also have noticeably less complaints concerning problems with obtaining construction permits (the balance answers: – 9.9 % against – 1.7 %), with the actions undertaken by other enterprises in order to eliminate competition (– 11.1 % against + 8.6 %), and with the unpredictability of the government’s economic policy (43.2 % against 59.5 %). Probably, these differences can be explained by the fact that pessimistically-minded directors are inclined to blame external factors for the intrinsic problem of their enterprises.
At the same time, the directors of enterprises expecting an increase in their output were confronted by a more acute shortage of labor resources: the balance of their answers with regard to that factor is 50.0 %, while the corresponding index of the pessimistically-minded ones is only 36.2 %.
Similar differences were also noted in the answer received from enterprises with different forms of ownership, of different size and belonging to different sectors (Tables 3, 4 and 5 respectively). Thus, state-owned companies complain less often than private companies of the problems associated with power supply, transport and personnel, as well as with relations with tax, judicial and law enforcement agencies. Bigger enterprises, on the whole, complain less often than smaller ones (with total number of staff less than 100 persons) of their economic environment. In particular, small-sized enterprises feel as more problematic the issues of credit accessibility, as well as of obtaining licenses and construction permits. Besides, small-sized enterprises believe more often than big ones that the development of their activity is suppressed by the unpredictability of government policy and competition with imported commodities. At the same time, small-sized enterprises voice far less complaints relating to the level of tax burden which, quite evidently, can be explained by their opportunities for applying simplified taxation regimes.
At significance level of 5 %.
There are also some differences with regard to several factors between enterprises belonging to extracting and processing industries. However, in all these cases any interpretation of the obtained results must be done with caution, because the groups of enterprises differ vary considerably in number (the poll encompassed 32 state-owned and 513 private companies, 29 small-sized and 515 big enterprises, 19 enterprises in the extracting and 523 in the processing industries).
Of separate interest in the comparison of the results of the IET’s poll with those of similar surveys conducted by the World Bank in 2002 and 200528 (Table 6). This comparison points to significant improvement of the economic conditions in industry: as compared to the years 2002 and 2005, in 2008 a number of factors were producing a far less marked negative influence on the development of Russian enterprises. These factors are: the quality and cost of communications services; difficult access to financial resources and the cost of their attraction; the functioning of tax, judicial and customs agencies; the actions undertaken by other enterprises in order to eliminate competition; too complicated licensing procedures; bribe-extolling by officials; and unpredictability of government economic policy.
On the contrary, if we take some resource-linked factor, there was a dramatic deterioration of the existing situation – in terms of the quality and cost of transport services, availability of labor resources and power supply. By comparison with 2005, the share of enterprises noting a growing number of obstacles represented by these factors increased by19.1, 21.7 and 43.5 p. p. respectively.
Of special interest is the fact that the IET’s poll has revealed a significantly lower level of dissatisfaction on the part of enterprises by the existing administrative restrictions than that demonstrated by BEEPS’ results. For example, the share of enterprises viewing as a serious obstacle in the way of their development the factor represented by the supervision and audits conducted by tax agencies decreased by 31.5 p.p. by comparison with 2005; the factor of bribes to officials - by 28.5 p.p.; the factor of the activity of judicial agencies – by 16.8 p.p., the factor of the actions undertaken by other enterprises in order to eliminate competition – by 15.5 p.p., and the factor of the activity of customs agencies – by 12.7 p.p. This is a rather unexpected finding, for which we can offer several mutually supplementing explanations.
Firstly, it should be recognized that in the past 4 or 5 years there have occurred some evident improvements in the quality of economic environment. This, in particular, was demonstrated by the results of monitoring of the administrative barriers in the way of the development of small businesses conducted by the Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR)29. Some of these improvements were directly linked to the adoption, in 2002 – 2003, of federal laws on registration, licensing, inspections and simplified taxation. The slights improvements that took place after 2003 were explained by the CEFIR’s researchers with better enforcement of these laws, with the resulting gradual reduction in direct violations of prevailing legislation – such as, for example, unlawful demands that enterprises should license their activity. Below we present more detailed comparisons between our results and those obtained by the CEFIR.
However, the improvements that actually occurred in economic environment are obviously insufficient. This is testified to by the following facts:
- The scale of improvements in Russia falls behind that characterizing the business climate of the majority of East European countries, which is confirmed by studies across countries. In the prestigious international rankings on the ease of doing business published by the World Bank, Russia ranks low, and does not seem to be able to change it in any marked degree (106th out of 178 countries in 2007)30, - Improving economic conditions had different effects on different groups of enterprises. The greatest benefit from the improvements was gained by bigger and well-established enterprises, which have for many years been operating on their relevant markets and learned how to effectively deal with the administrative problems they are now and then have been confronted with.
World Bank Business Environment and Enterprise Performance Survey – BEEPS. Additional information concerning BEEPS can be found, e. g., in: Raj M. Desai and Itzhak Goldberg, Eds. 2007. Enhancing Russia’s Competitiveness and Innovative Capacity. The World Bank. Washington, DC.
Monitoring administrativnykh bar’erov na puti razvitiia malogo biznesa v Rossii. [Monitoring of the administrative barriers in the way of small-sized business development in Russia.] Round 6. CEFIR. June 2007.
Doing Business 2008. World Bank. The economic conditions for the functioning of small-sized enterprises, as follows from the poll’s results, are noticeably less favorable. Besides, we assume than the terms for the entry on the market of new players are very hard, just as before. That is why we see so few newly emerging enterprises and such a low level of competition. However, this latter assumption cannot be verified on the basis of only the data obtained through our polls, because those failing to get through the “entry” barriers do not participate in them.
- In 2007 – 2008 Russian industrial enterprises were confronted with relatively new resourcelinked restrictions to their growth (first of all, shortages of labor and energy resources). Against this background it appears rather natural that the estimations of traditional administrative restrictions became less prominent. The changes in the level of administrative obstacles to development might have actually been rather moderate, but in face of the new problems their significance for the enterprises noticeably diminished It seems that the results of the IET’s poll have demonstrated only a relative, and not absolute (as compared to the effects produced by other factors) decrease in administrative barriers.
Secondly, the differences between the results obtained by the IET and BEEPS are linked also to the differences in the properties of relevant samples. The BEEPS’ poll encompasses a greater number of small-sized enterprises (only 34 % of them having their staff in excess of 50 persons), while the IET’s sample displays a strong shift towards big enterprises (94 % of enterprises with staff of more than persons). Besides, all the 545 enterprises in the IET’s panel are industrial ones, whereas in the BEEPS’ 2005 poll only 40 % were in industry. Therefore, the much lower level of complaints concerning administrative restrictions revealed by the IET can largely be explained by the fact that among the respondents there are too few small-sized enterprises, such restrictions being much more important for the latter category. This means that the scale of the actual reduction in administrative barriers in the Russian economy in the period of 2005 – 2008 was, most probably, markedly lower than that displayed in Table 6. In other words, the results of the IET’s poll, because of the sample’s structure, underestimate the problems relating to the still existing administrative restrictions.
Thirdly, as has been mentioned earlier, the unexpectedly high share of respondents in the IET’s poll failed (“found it difficult”) to answer the questions concerning the influence of administrative factors on the development of their enterprises. This has led us to the assumption that administrative restrictions actually represent a more serious problem in industry than it can be concluded on the basis of the poll’s results, but in the present situation the directors of enterprises are by far not so ready to openly discuss it than they did back in 2002 or 2005. This, in our opinion, also attests to the fact that the poll’s results indeed underestimate the scope of problems associated with administrative restrictions.
Of some interest also is the comparison between the results of the IET’s poll and those of the CEFIR’s monitoring. It is worth emphasizing that, with regard to a number of factors, there exist considerable discrepancies in the estimates as to the direction of the changes observed: the CEFIR’s monitoring recorded an improvement in the situation over time (between 2004 and 2006), while the IET’s poll (2008) points to an improvement by comparison with the BEEPS’ results (2005). These factors are as follows:
- taxation level (the average estimate of negative effect in the CEFIR’s monitoring decreased from 2.78 to 2.65 by five-point scale), - lack of economic stability (from 2.89 to 2.54), - tax administration (from 2.59 to 2.34), - difficulties in attracting capital (from 2.42 to 2.25), - formalization of lease of land (from 2.68 to 2.52), - licensing (from 2,22 to 2,13).
Besides, the presence of considerable differences should also be noted in the results of polls conducted by the IET and the CEFIR. In Fig. 3 the different factors applied in these two polls are ranges in accordance with the strength of their negative effect on the development of enterprises (in terms of per cent, 100% represents the most unfavorable factor). The important quality-linked similarities of the results of the two polls are as follows:
- Tax issues are considerably more significant for the development of enterprises than the problems associated with corruption or licensing. The last two factors are not perceived by enterprises as significant restrictions to their development.
- The level of tax burden is perceived as more negative than the quality of tax administration.
- The factor of uncertainty (unpredictability of economic policy) appears to be very significant in both the polls.
At the same time, the estimations of the other three factors are fundamentally different. The complicated procedure of land acquisition and the character of competition with other enterprises appear to be very important for the participants of the CEFIR’s poll, but are not regarded as significant restrictions to growth in the IET’s poll. A directly opposite picture emerges in respect of the factor “terms for the attraction of financial resources”.
Just as in the case of the BEEPS’ poll, certain departures from the results obtained by the CEFIR can be explained by differences between the samples studied. As mentioned earlier, in the IET’s poll all respondents are industrial enterprises, and predominantly big ones. As for the CEFIR’s poll, it encompasses only small-sized enterprises, mainly in the services sector (those producing industrial goods constitute only 9.9 % of the sample).