Green light for business
Alexander Lukashenko believes Council for Entrepreneurship Development should drive forward constructive ideas, while helping realise business potential
By Vladimir Khromov
Speaking at a Council session, Mr. Lukashenko stressed that its major task is to advise entrepreneurs of state policy, to ensure that the interests of society are met and that civilised market relations are supported. The President added that economic modernisation is a focus for the private sector as well as the state sector, with investors sought from Belarus and further afield.
“The Council was established to help entrepreneurs realise their full potential, supporting efficient market structures and solving acute problems in a business-like manner — without red-tape,” the Head of State emphasised. Mr. Lukashenko noted that he is eager to listen to businessmen’s ideas on enhancing efficiency. “The decisions we make now must drastically improve the Council’s work; it should absolutely meet modern requirements.”
Mr. Lukashenko asserts that the Council for Entrepreneurship Development is virtually the only such council set up under the auspices of the President. He explained, “Confusion abounded, with too many officers within law enforcement bodies and government agencies wishing to line their pockets. This was pretty commonplace but I hope things have changed by now. I was unhappy with the situation of so many people wanting to intimidate, harass and jail businessmen, which is utterly unacceptable. It’s important for me to help new businessmen: our policy is simple — to make life easier for them and all those who work with them. I want everything to be fair and honest. We need to know what is going on in the business community, so I want to be kept informed.”
Mr. Lukashenko admits that he often failed to receive such information from entrepreneurs. “Accordingly, I’ve appointed someone close to me, who can voice their position openly and honestly — even if it differs from the opinions of others,” the President noted.
Mr. Lukashenko stresses that businessmen do not need overprotection or privileges. “You are not disabled or pensioners. You began a business to try and make a profit, so it’s fair to pay taxes, which feed the state budget, helping those who cannot earn as much. Nobody is suggesting that we strip businessmen of all they have. We should be generous but we don’t need to give away money for nothing. Everybody should work but, if you would like to help an orphanage, or essential spheres like sports, healthcare or education, let’s team up,” the President said. “You cannot accuse me of forcing businessmen to help the state. If you can help, then do so; if you cannot, that’s up to you, although the attitude of the state, and my own, towards you may be affected,” he added.
Mr. Lukashenko stressed that businesses’ participation in social programmes is really quite essential. “Only then will people respect you, no longer badmouthing businessmen as being self-seeking,” the Head of State emphasised.
Mr. Lukashenko has set up the Council to operate without the participation of state officers — except for its Chairman — to avoid corrupt practices. “You are business people, so it’s extremely important for me to hear your opinions on the most topical issues of our social-economic policy. I’m especially interested in alternative views, which differ from the position of the Government and other state officials,” said the President, adding, “Piotr Prokopovich has been appointed Council Chairman and has direct contact with the Head of State. I hope to see you working actively to ensure the country gains real benefits.”
Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Prokopovich notes that the goals of the new Council are primarily related to entrepreneurial ventures, as defined by Belarus’ 2011-2015 programme for social-economic development. Small and medium-sized businesses are expected to account for at least 30 percent of GDP by 2015, with the Council aiming to reduce the amount of bureaucracy.
Mr. Prokopovich believes it’s vital to seriously alter the structure of small and medium-sized businesses, which primarily focus on retail trade and imports at present. “We should move towards industrial production and services, since these spheres are in demand and, ultimately, are responsible for the country’s fate,” he said.
The creation of new jobs in the private sector was another focus of the session, with at least 300,000 jobs sought over the coming three years. Mr. Prokopovich notes that the Government is developing a package of measures to ensure state support of entrepreneurship, with a document soon to be studied by the Council of Ministers’ Presidium.
Mr. Lukashenko stressed that his contacts with private businesses are guided by state interests. “I’m in touch with everybody. I’m not afraid that some might say that businessmen are gathering around me. They are my citizens and I must support them for the single reason that they can benefit our state,” he asserts.
Mr. Lukashenko assured those present that the state is ready to support promising and interesting projects but notes the importance of business responsibility. “Don’t attempt to swindle,” the President warns. “If you make promises, you must keep your word. If you can’t do so, then don’t come. Your word is all in business.”