Conducting business efficiently from distance of thousands of kilometres
By Victor Mikhailov
Interestingly, just five ‘Belarus’ tractors were found on Venezuelan plantations five years ago; only three Minsk Automobile Works’ trucks furrowed the remote country’s winding mountain slopes. The number has now risen many thousand fold — with 4,000 agricultural vehicles produced by the Minsk Tractor Works operational and 1,500 MAZ trucks. Moreover, many
Venezuelan cities now enjoy the comfort of hundreds of Belarus-made buses.
Sales of Belarusian machinery to this South American country have driven forward trade-economic relations between us. Of course, the political component is no less important for mutual relations, with presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Hugo Chavez playing a tremendous role. Our two states’ social focus has helped us realise projects extremely quickly. Our current trade turnover of $1bn is already high, especially considering the distance between Belarus and Venezuela and the fact that, initially, we knew little of each other.
A strategic plan of action has ensured efficient movement forward, with trade goods travelling thousands of kilometres. We can now say that a new level of relations exists, using words such as ‘co-operation’ and, even, ‘integration’ — as was evident at the recent 1st Venezuelan-Belarusian Forum, hosted by Minsk. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Venezuela to Minsk, H.E. Mr. Americo Diaz Nunez, and Belarus’ First Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko, spoke of achievements and prospects for our bilateral relations. Meanwhile, the many ministries and agencies involved in work with Venezuela discussed future possibilities for collaboration.
Belarus is expanding (in the best sense) into Venezuela, as recent events prove. In a month or two, MAZ truck assembly is to be launched in Venezuelan Barinas. The facility is designed to manufacture up to 5,000 MAZ vehicles annually. Another plant in the same region is to produce 10,000 ‘Belarus’ tractors and Minsk’s Amkodor is hopeful of opening a similar assembly plant — negotiations are reaching their conclusion. Importantly, a vital social aspect is at the heart of this work, as the new factories will create jobs and give Venezuelan specialists essential technological experience. Several dozen young Venezuelans are currently passing internships at Minsk Automobile Works.
We’d be remiss in exploring the Belarusian-Venezuelan phenomena without mentioning another important aspect. Belarusian specialists have been working to enhance Venezuelans’ wellbeing. Of course, nothing comes free of charge, but this does not detract from its significance. Belarusians are helping build modern accommodation in Venezuela: 2,500 flats will be complete in the city of Maracay later this year — all designed and built by Belarusian specialists. Another 20,000 are to be constructed in coming years. Our workers have ably demonstrated their high professional skills, hampered neither by unfamiliar climatic conditions nor the unique local landscape.
The Venezuelans treat Belarusian oil industry workers with respect, as they jointly mine in remote areas of the country. The same goes for our specialists laying gas pipes in Venezuela, and others helping strengthen infrastructure. Our Belarusian-Venezuelan ‘house’ has strong foundations, reaching far beyond the Belarusian-Venezuelan Trading House in Caracas — although its opening ensures that Belarusian products are being sold more widely in Venezuela, while manufactures from this country are being similarly represented in Belarus.
The Minsk business forum also tackled cultural liaisons, as epitomised by the Venezuelan Cultural Centre, freshly opened in Minsk, and the Belarus-Venezuela Society. Venezuelan post-graduates and under-graduates attend Minsk universities, while many Belarusian alumni wish to gain professional experience in Venezuela, working at sites overseen by Belarusian specialists.
No doubt, the future looks bright, filled with promising proposals to the benefit of all.