‘I’m supporting us having more private property...’

Alexander Lukashenko speaks to students of Belarusian State Economic University’s International Economic Relations Department and answers questions on a variety of topics
By Denis Krylov

The topic of conversation with tomorrow’s international economists was, appropriately, ‘Belarus under conditions of globalisation, our points of growth and prospects’. The President proposed those present ponder the topic in relation to their future profession. He set forth the foundations of the Belarusian model of economic development, saying, “It uses a combination of market economics, state regulation and strong social policy.”

Until recently, such words might have inspired hot debate but the fashion for absolute market liberalism (to which youngsters are susceptible) is less strong than it was. Mr. Lukashenko noted that the global financial crisis obliged even those countries most known for their open markets to apply elements of state regulation. Students with some knowledge of the subject agreed.

Clearly, economies are delicate, operating best under a steady, central path. Neither absolute control nor uncontrollable freedom (which can resemble anarchy) is effective. Rather, a sensible and well-balanced approach is needed. The future may be bright if those shaping it appreciate the justice of this assertion.

The Belarusian President laid out the characteristics of the Belarusian economy, and the advantages and disadvantages of its extreme openness, as well as its foreign economic interests. He explained its work in relation to the WTO, the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space, as well as its strategies of modernisation, innovation and promotion of intellectual assets. He emphasised the importance of commitment, speaking simply and sometimes figuratively, saying, “We take for granted out highly qualified specialists and diligent workers but labour efficiency at our enterprises is much lower than that seen at advanced foreign companies and our consumption of materials and energy is much higher.”

In their questions to the President, the students focused on a variety of topics — from professional to forecasts for the 2014 IIHF World Championship, including the state’s relations with private business. State policy was presented unambiguously: businesses can form a true partnership in which mutual obligations and social responsibilities are met. The Belarusian leader treats private property with respect, stressing, “I’ve always emphasised that I’m not against private property. I’m happy to see more private property where it helps people to realise their potential and creates a greater number of wealthy people in the country who bring benefit to themselves and the state.” Of course, it can be the case that property is acquired in a different fashion, through underhand dealing. Others have worked hard from scratch to build their own businesses.

Politics also arose in the conversation, which lasted over three hours. Later, the students were able to chat among themselves and with journalists, hardly able to conceal their satisfaction. The President seemed to be pleased, finally recollecting his own days as a lecturer. Evidently, it was a pleasant memory, as was his sincere interest in the youngsters’ attitude towards their future and the future of their country.
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