Doing Business in Russia – Part 5

If you want to set yourself up as a company in Russia providing, amongst other things, scaffolding services (for construction, not public executions) then you need a license.  This seems reasonable enough, as badly assembled scaffolding can be pretty dangerous.  The problem is, the Russian regulations don’t recognise scaffolding as an activity in its own right, it comes under the umbrella of “Construction”.  So in order to provide scaffolding services, you must have a construction license.

A construction license in Russia allows the holder to engage in pretty much any kind of civil construction he chooses.  In other words, to get permission to throw up scaffolding you need to demonstrate you can build a tower block or motorway bridge.  Which goes a long way to explaining why there are very few scaffolding companies in Russia and generally people prefer to work off sticks leaned up against a wall with the occasional piece of string holding it all together.

But what if you are only want do scaffolding and not build tower blocks?  How do you go about getting a license?  Actually, I don’t know.  Very few people do.  But those very few people can be hired for the specific purpose of getting you a construction license (it is not just scaffolders that have this problem).  I don’t know who the lady was who got us ours, but I did know she came into our office and spent a good month on the phone and running around the town with piles of paper.  One of her roles was to identify licensed architects, civil engineers, and other building specialists which appear on a list of people you must have in your employ if you want a construction license.  Once identified, these people would, for a fee, sign a contract with your company.  Who they actually were is anyone’s guess, we never saw them, but we did have contracts of employment for enough people to design and build a hideous, square, concrete skyscraper with rendering that would fall off within five years leaving the rebar exposed.  The lady ran about with papers, I signed them, she went and got them stamped, we handed over money, and sure enough eventually we had enough paper with enough stamps on them to enable us to do some serious civil construction.  But we only wanted to do some scaffolding, of course.

We submitted our application, and waited a month.  Then we received our construction license, having paid whatever fees were required both official and non.  The entire process took somewhere between 3 and 4 months.  In Russia, construction licenses must be renewed every year, and the renewal process is no different from the first application that I described above.  The lady who helped us with ours had a full time job getting people construction licenses, and she didn’t come cheap.  And there must be engineers scattered about Russia who are simultaneously employed by a dozen or so companies they don’t know exist.  Still, this is the price you pay for ensuring Russian scaffolding is of a high standard, right?  Surely such onerous regulatory requirements mean that all scaffolding is assembled correctly and poses no danger to anybody?


Russian scaffolding, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

Russian scaffolding, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

(Doing Business in Russia – Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4 are here , here, here and here respectively.)


3 thoughts on “Doing Business in Russia – Part 5

  1. Agree with Alisa: something’s gotta be done!

    In a similar vein: had an online conversation today with a woman from Russia who visited her elderly ill pensioner-mother in a small town. She was going through mother’s bills and mail when she discovered that her mother was charged monthly 500rubles (a big sum for a pensioner) for not refusing medicines.

    It couldn’t make sense to me, however I looked at that; I asked for explanation. Apparently, during some government session Kiev passed a law that all pensioners will be automatically supplied with basic medicines; and that Health Department will simultaneously authorize local drugstores to send packages with basic (I repeat, basic medicines regardless of pensioner’s needs) and withdraw a fee for that “service” from their pensions (which are still, of course, government-funded, and are very small for majority of the elderly). There was a shor-term window to opt out, but nobody advertised for that, so masses of people were getting this “voluntary-enforced” benefit w/o their knowledge or wish.
    Naturally, it is done with the utmost good intentions – to make sure the poorest social group get medical attention…Nobody cared that drugstores has been sending unnecessary expired tablets crowding their shelves – pensioner can not refuse the “service” and keep their money instead for when real emergency occurs!
    The woman’s mother has cancer, but she’s been sent totally useless boxes of aspirin and bandages and charged for that over the nose. It took a lot of time and effort (just like you describe, wandering around town for letters, seals and stamps) to opt her out…

    Business in Russia, indeed.

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