Breakthrough is needed in crisis

On visiting Minsk Automobile Plant OJSC — Managing Company of BelautoMAZ Holding, President Alexander Lukashenko states that investments into Belarusian machine building will reflect sales
On visiting Minsk Automobile Plant OJSC — Managing Company of BelautoMAZ Holding, President Alexander Lukashenko states that investments into Belarusian machine building will reflect sales

Alexander Lukashenko and team head, MAZ-SPORTauto driver, Sergei Vyazovich

At present, the world machine industry sphere is experiencing tough times, with demand falling across all segments. As a result, Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ trademark) has a large volume of warehoused goods, and is owed ever more money for dispatched products. It is suffering from a deficit of floating assets.

The state has been helping, aiding the passing along of warehouse stock via leasing schemes, customer subsidies and other instruments. The economy has recovered slightly and company heads are now seeking out new markets. During the President’s visit, recent measures were discussed, alongside plans for the future.

An open-air exhibition of novelties produced by Belarusian machine building companies was recently organised in front of the main MAZ building, while a workshop hosted a display of components. Initially, discussion of the branch’s prospects was planned to follow the exhibition but the President abolished the meeting, saying that the topic is too extensive and serious to be discussed lightly.

The tour, followed by reports from directors lasted for almost five hours, providing much information to analyse and study. Mr. Lukashenko has demanded that final talks will feature not only directors and members of the Government but those who sell our machinery abroad and those who operate it, to ensure a full picture. He wants to encourage open voicing of opinions, so that a more effective strategy can be devised. The event should take place soon, with some conclusions already drawn.

On being asked how they feel they are performing in comparison to MAZ, heads of BelAZ, MTZ and Amkodor note that they know they need to ‘do better’. Mr. Lukashenko has said so himself, speaking with workers, who agree that they hold the plant’s fate in their hands. Quality is the essential factor in finding markets; any badly fixed nut on a conveyor line could damage the Belarusian brand’s reputation, resulting in loss of buyers and profits, leading to reduced salaries. There is a direct connection between the mechanics of production and wages, as employees appreciate. Most believe in a promising future for their company, despite tough times at present (as seen from a poll conducted on the eve of the President’s visit). However, workers also expect more decisive actions from managers.

Production at Minsk Automobile Plant OJSC

BelautoMAZ Holding’s plans for development include serious modernisation, at a cost of around $500m. The President asked directly whether the company is confident of finding sales markets for its goods and, on receiving no clear answer, stressed, “You may find funding, possibly via Chinese loans, only when you prove that you have markets waiting. Otherwise, we won’t give you a single cent. I cannot invest hundreds of millions of Dollars in vague promises, with goods ending up being piled in warehouses or, worse.”

Modernisation, via use of the most advanced equipment, and newly trained personnel, can produce good quality products but investment is fruitless without a firm sales strategy. It’s an obvious argument for any sphere, including Belarusian machine building. On visiting MAZ, Mr. Lukashenko pointed out that, to compete with Russian rivals, we need to offer the best terms, such as five-year warranties (as some passenger car producers do). Of course, this is only possible if manufacturers believe in their goods. BelAZ acts as a good example, successfully guaranteeing its machinery for up to a million kilometres of use.

On approaching BelGee, the President surveyed its attractive Geely car, and then announced that all officials — including chairmen of district executive committees and ministries — should change their cars for Belarus-made automobiles.

Another interesting project is agricultural machinery’s use of liquefied gas, to save fuel. At least three agricultural enterprises should be using such machinery by the start of the next agrarian season. Benefits will then be studied and a decision made on whether to apply these vehicles more widely.

The President is convinced that such companies as MAZ are a source of national pride; those brands are our history, and are part of our future, of course, requiring modern economic approaches. MAZ heads aim to keep on staff and provide decent salaries, but long-term goals for the plant and the wider machine-building sphere are yet to be discussed.

On visiting Minsk Automobile Plant, Mr. Lukashenko talked to workers, answering their questions:

Preserving peace and consent

Some jeer that any situation is better than war. What do we need in times of war? We need peace — which is vital. I must assure you not to worry over issues of security, war or peace. We aren’t going to war with anyone; we are experienced people. However, we’ve recently modernised our Armed Forces so that anyone encroaching on our land will face immediate attack. With this in mind, we’ve modernised our army, for our country’s protection. We’ve strengthened protection of the Ukrainian border, with the same purpose. We’re not fencing peaceful people; the latter are always welcome and we accept and help refugees. However, criminals won’t be able to enter. There’s no need for you to worry about anything war-related. Trade is our main focus and concern. Once we’ve emerged from these difficult times, and they’ll be over sooner or later, we’ll be afraid of nothing. We know we can overcome any situation, being strong people.

By Vladimir Khromov
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