Russia needs to introduce economic and tax reforms to end its stagnation, President Vladimir Putin said Thursday, urging the government to plan for 2019 and beyond, after the 2018 presidential polls.
"If we don't resolve basic problems of the Russian economy, if we don't fully launch new factors for growth, then we could hover around zero for years, pushing us to constantly shrink, economise and delay our development," he said in an annual state of the union speech..
"We can't afford this," he said.
"I order the government... to work out a substantial plan of action for the period up to 2025 that would allow us to reach an economic growth rate that is faster than the global average from the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020," he said.
"We must focus our tax system so that it works toward the main goal: stimulating business activity, economic growth and investment," he said, adding the government must pass tax reforms in 2018 so that they can be implemented in 2019.
The Russian economy has been stagnating for years, and is forecast to contract by 0.6 percent this year.
The government looking into deep spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit.
Critics have called for structural reforms for years, but Russia continues to depend heavily on its exports of natural resources such as oil, while investment has been deeply affected by Western sanctions over Ukraine.
While Putin and his predecessor Dmitry Medvedev, who is now prime minister, have both talked about the need to support small and medium-sized businesses, invest in innovation and decrease state control over the economy, the rhetoric has not solidified into reforms.
Putin, who first took charge of the country in 2000, on Thursday complained of "shortaqes of investment resources, modern technology and professional personnel" as well as "inadequately developed competition and flaws in the business climate."