No tricks for businesses that invest at home, Russia's Siluanov says

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov called on Russian businesses on Friday to invest at home instead of abroad and said perceptions the government was seeking to “trick them” out of their profits were false.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov speaks during a session of the Moscow Financial Forum in Moscow, Russia September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Siluanov’s comments came a day after he met business representative Alexander Shokhin and other heads of companies to discuss ways of supporting Russian business.

“The relatively stable rouble has allowed business leaders to receive good earnings. That’s why we say: friends, please send these earnings in the direction of Russia’s economy,” Siluanov said on Friday.

“Don’t guzzle them away. Don’t invest them in whatever foreign assets. Spend them here.”

The minister said that he and Shokhin, a former deputy prime minister who now heads the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, had discussed policies to create favorable conditions for business.

“For some reason, (business leaders) think we are trying to confiscate, to trick them, to take steps to take away their additional profits,” Siluanov said.

“That’s not the case at all. Quite the opposite.”

Russian ministers and business leaders are in talks following a proposal by Kremlin aide Andrei Belousov to raise 500 billion rubles ($7.24 billion) a year for the stretched state budget from metals and mining firms.

His initial suggestion of a windfall tax on the firms, which the government says have profited from a weak rouble and strong commodity prices, triggered a sell-off in metal and mining shares and was opposed by Siluanov. In late August Belousov proposed instead that firms invest in social projects in Russia.

Russia needs extra budget revenue to meet economic goals set out by Putin when he began a new six-year term in the Kremlin in May. The government has already announced plans to raise value-added tax from 2019 and increase the retirement age.

Moscow has meanwhile adopted or proposed a number of measures to make it easier for Russian businesses to move their money home, including scrapping penalties on funds repatriated from abroad.

($1 = 69.1005 rubles)

Writing by Polina Ivanova; Editing by Catherine Evans