Date: 12 May 2020
Russia Eases Lockdown Yet Offers Little Support to Citizens
Russia is gradually relaxing its coronavirus lockdown measures. In a televised address, Russian President Vladimir Putin said some regions might keep tighter controls if necessary and announced a fresh relief package for the crisis-wrecked Russian economy. This is yet not enough, experts say. Just a day after the president’s speech, Russia had the second-highest number of confirmed infections worldwide.
Vladimir Putin says that from May 11 the nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be eased and businesses would go back to work. From now on, Russian regions will be in charge of inflicting social distancing regulations. “Russia will begin to gradually ease coronavirus lockdown measures, but the whole process will not be quick,” the Russian leader said. Public events are out of the question throughout the entire country and the enhanced safety measures must also remain in place for people over 65 years and for patients with chronic diseases. “Every region is ready and has everything it needs to help people that might suffer from severe complications,” Putin said. Earlier, many Russian regions had said stay-at-home restrictions would remain in place by late May. According to the president, the work restrictions harmed many sectors of the economy. The government has introduced one trillion roubles ($13.5 billion) of the economic stimulus plan, or the “third package” for businesses to try to shield its economy from the coronavirus shock.
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Economists remain skeptical about Putin’s plan, arguing it is not enough to safeguard the country’s economy. What does the new package include? Worst-hit economy sectors are eligible to receive loans. If a company retains at least 90 percent of its employees, it will not have to pay back the loan and interests accrued. If this figure hits 80 percent, this will compel a company to reimburse 50 percent of the amount received. The firms would be allowed to defer tax payments, yet except value-added tax, for the second quarter of 2020. Income tax paid in 2019 will be repaid to self-employed individuals provided that they have run their own business since at least 2019. Also, families will receive a one-off payment of 10,000 roubles per child aged between 3 and 16 years. The benefit to parents with children under the age of 18 months will double. What illustrates the “third package” is that the authorities in Moscow have no intention of adding big sums of money to weather the economic storm, nor they seek to use a “rainy day” fund. The overall relief package in Russia is yet selective, with most of the support aimed at helping families with children and companies that the state sees as most affected by the coronavirus crisis. Even with the “third package” in place, Russian state relief is now just a drop in the ocean.
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