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    MOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti). The government regards the support of small business as one of its key tasks in raising the country's economy. Minister of Economic Development and Trade German Gref said this on Tuesday at the Russia's Supports forum.

    The competitiveness of the country and of every individual depends in many respects on the level of the development of small business, on how an ordinary person can realize his or her economic freedom," he underscored.

    The Minister of Economic Development and Trade reminded the audience that the government has already done certain work in lowering the barriers for small business.

    Today, Mr. Gref said, there are about half a million small enterprises and 4.7 million individual entrepreneurs in the country. Their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stands at 10% - 12%, and to the employment of the population - at 17% - 19%, the minister pointed out.

    In 2005, the government will adopt a three-year plan for the development of small entrepreneurship in Russia.

    This plan provides for the creation of business incubators, for supporting the enterprises producing goods for export, microcrediting of small enterprises and for creating venture funds to support innovation enterprises of small business.

    Apart from that, the ministry presupposes to form an information resource for small business and also to regularly keep an eye on the actions of municipal and regional authorities with regard to small business.

    The minister promised the entrepreneurs to combat extortion in the sphere of small business and facts of elbowing out enterprises in the interests of rivals.

    Mr. Gref touched upon in greater length the theme of creating business incubators for small enterprises, the number of which will reach a hundred in the next three years.

    According to him, already in 2005 a contest will be held between the subjects of the Russian Federation to choose the best business projects. The small enterprises, which will win the contest, will receive equipped premises on favourable terms for implementing their projects.

    Mr. Gref said that these premises would be given from the federal property which are planned to be privatized.

    Apart from business incubators, the government plans to allot premises for small business, engaged in innovation activity, and for Science and Research Parks, which are planned to be created in 2006.

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