The All-Russian Congress of Representatives of Small Business, which met in Moscow February 20-23, was the first such meeting in post-Communist Russia. (8) This public demonstration by the small-business community of its growing weight has particular significance at a time when the Communists are talking of strengthening the economic role of the state. Reports of the meeting illustrated the importance of the small-business sector (officially, a small business has less than fifty employees). There are said to be 900,000 small businesses in operation in Russia today, employing 14 million people (one in five of the employed population) and producing 9 percent of GDP. (9).Other sources put the numbers employed as high as 20 million and note that small businesses constitute the tax base for 51 percent of the Moscow city budget and are of similar economic importance to other municipal authorities. (10) Typically, small businesses are engaged in buying and selling, but an increasing number are engaged in small manufacturing or act as consultancies, for example, in computing and design. Some started as spin-offs from enterprises in the state-controlled defense industry. Yeltsin has promised to simplify the procedures for registering such enterprises, since the present system allows considerable leeway to local bureaucrats to line their pockets by demanding kickbacks. Delegates attending the conference said that present tax laws are so unjustly weighted against small businesses that the state was virtually forcing them to break the law in order to survive.
Russian Black Sea Fleet Commander Appointed.