Entrepreneurs express readiness to come forward

Business consolidation now clearly needed

By Tatiana Kozlovskaya

In recent years, leaders of business associations have often been reproached for defending the interests of a limited group of people. In fact, very few entrepreneurs are actually represented within such unions or associations, as they rarely seek out dialogue with the authorities. Most are leaders of unions which attract no more than a few thousand members — although around 340,000 such legal entities operate in Belarus today.

The country’s integration into an international trading system has brought changes of late: via the Customs Union and the imminent Single Economic Space. Belarus will soon fall under the strict rules of the WTO, as our major trading partner — Russia — is expected to become a member before long. Domestic experts — including business representatives — are concerned as to how they can become strong and respected market players. Of course, all seek to generate the greatest profit possible but, after recent turbulence on Belarus’ currency market, businesses are far from being in peak condition.

Legislation may be adopted to oblige all entrepreneurs to join associations and unions: an approach used in countries such as Germany and Holland and advocated by the World Trade Organisation. Belarus currently boasts no more than a couple of such organisations which can help manufacturers lobby important decisions at state level. The development of state-private partnership is on the agenda, with a draft law ready for discussion. Moreover, our business community has joined experts from the International Finance Corporation to prepare a draft law on self-regulating organisations. Similar structures already function in Russia.

Major business problems are being solved but more need attention. During a recent meeting, representatives of business associations expressed their firm belief that the state should not rely exclusively on foreign investors to develop the economy. Russian businesses have an investing advantage under the conditions of the Single Economic Space, but it would be dangerous to rely on them too heavily. Vladimir Karyagin, the Chairman of Minsk’s Union of Entrepreneurs, is proposing that we create a layear of large Belarusian businesses by passing enterprises into the hands of efficient managers, who can buy shares in their company when sufficient profit is generated.

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