Confident present and clear view of tomorrow are vital for stability
On visiting Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant JSC, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko emphasises that the state has no plans to sell this company
Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant is a unique enterprise within the post-Soviet space, producing chassis for powerful nuclear rocket and rocket complexes of various purposes. While the weapons are Russian, the machinery is produced in Belarus. Unsurprisingly, some time ago, the Minsk plant joined those integration projects envisaging merger with Russian and Belarusian enterprises. The process could have been welcomed, since our two states have long enjoyed liaison in this sphere, but rumours of privatisation caused an alert.
Mr. Lukashenko mentioned the scheme of possible privatisation in Belarus, whereby workers must initially voice their opinion, before heads share their views. City authorities and the related ministry should then give their opinions, with the Government taking the final decision to send a proposal to the President.
The Head of State toured the plant’s workshops, viewing products and chatting to workers. In honesty, I had no sense that those working at the factory desire a new owner. There seems no reason to do so, since the enterprise remains successful, despite global challenges. Besides making traditional wheeled tractors, the factory is mastering production of passenger buses, machinery for oil exploration and armoured vehicles. Its achievements ensure good salaries for its employees and their future is secure: a vital element.
Plant heads also seem reluctant to embrace privatisation, since their facility remains competitive on global markets and has its own, independent production technologies. Can someone else really introduce something better, or bring access to new markets? With this in mind, the issue of reform seems questionable. It might generate money but the President notes that the state would only consider negotiations if $3bn were to be proposed. Even in this case, the state would preserve is duty of ensuring that workers remained in employment and that the enterprise continued in operation.
As yet, no such offer has been made, with potential buyers saying that they could build a new plant from scratch for $1bn. “In that case, do,” Mr. Lukashenko replies. There would be no barrier to another company setting up in this way, although there might be problems in finding well-trained, experienced employees. It takes decades to bring together a professional team of qualified specialists. To date, around three generations of workers have passed through the enterprise. Their experience is more valuable than gold.
Chatting to staff, the President noted that he is not advocating for privatisation, knowing that the plant is strong and won’t squander its assets. It seems only right to preserve the plant’s state ownership in this case. There is no contradiction regarding our relationship with Russian colleagues, with whom partnerships may still be strengthened and with whom production co-operation is profitable and useful. This should be taken into account when thinking of the future.
Chatting with employees at Minsk’s Wheeled Tractor Plant, the Belarusian President focused on the following:
On the key issue
The world is being re-divided. The entire world is currently united in its fight against ISIS yet nobody can be bothered to find out how ISIS (which gathers members from around the globe) can stand up to the powerful countries allegedly fighting against it. Entire countries are being broken but the Western coalition — led by America — cannot defeat it. This is because, within this coalition, someone is financing ISIS; someone is benefiting from ISIS. They are eager to change the world’s architecture in order to redistribute or, more precisely, capture lands rich in hydrocarbon resources, but don’t wish to use their own hands.
The world is being re-divided. While salaries are important, as Belarusian President, I have to defend this country. In this tumultuous sea, we must preserve our boat and prevent it from going down.
Not only domestic reasons brought about the crisis in Ukraine: global powers are fighting on both sides. We must find a balance, to defend this piece of land — maybe not for ourselves but for our children. This is what matters today. Things are getting tight over there. Economic factors are manifesting as tough competition and suppression. As an average country, we must stand our ground; we have to survive. We don’t want to go under. We should understand that if we slip up, we’ll be dealt with even faster than Ukraine has been. We can go on only if we stand together and if we ensure internal stability. However hard it may be, we should preserve peace in our country!
On youngsters’ prospects
Young people are our future, however banal this may sound. We mustn’t be reproached for failing to offer promising jobs to them. Just 7-10 years ago, those currently applying for the Presidential post were against my decision to launch our own satellite. It now orbits, fully paying for itself and generating profit. However, this is beside the point. On launching a satellite, we put new production facilities into operation, creating employment for our young people. They now work there; they have opportunities. We’re now building a nuclear power station. What does this mean for our young people? Modern jobs for 5,000-7,000 personnel initially. Where can we find these people? We must train our youngsters.
These are only two branches but we can also speak of wood processing. We have new tools and new production facilities but need construction staff and heads: opportunities for our young people. Our key task is to convince our children that they will be protected and provided with everything within their own land. Young people will replace us; it’s their future, since we are not immortal. Youngsters will come and occupy our place.
On illegal migration to Europe
They [Europeans] are reaping the results of their actions, since who asked them to destroy Egypt, Libya, Syria or Iraq? People are beyond endurance; they are ready to die crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe. However, don’t think that all of these are homeless and poor. You know who is coming to Europe as part of this company. Those seeking to teach Europeans a lesson! They shouldn’t have destroyed these states. They should have liaised and, in the course of time, proposed their own values: true values.
As regards migration, we’re strictly controlling this. We’re a transit country but, having strength and a society worried by this situation, have no such problems [regarding illegal migration to Europe]. We catch these people within 24 hours. Owing to our unity, we’re controlling this process. Of course, despite these serious threats, we must not shut ourselves off from the benefits of being a transit crossroads.
On establishing a private sector trade union
Our people will enjoy equal guarantees everywhere. I’ve supported this process. Our trade unions have received new leaders: normal, clear-headed young people. I’ve supported you everywhere. See whether this process is developing (formally or otherwise) at private enterprises, and whether these companies are offering the same social package as state companies.
So far, no catastrophe has occurred, although some still complain. If I’m informed that my decisions are failing to be fulfilled (formally or otherwise) I’ll act. Tell me and guide me in this direction; who would risk shooting down Presidential decisions in our country? Whether employed by state or private companies, people deserve equal protection.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
You know my attitude towards privatisation. We didn’t create this particular entity; it was established by several generations. We are at least the third generation of ‘ownership’. We shouldn’t act drastically: only if an issue arises.
By Vasily Kharitonov