“We have built a sovereign state, and this state should be made as comfortable for people as possible,” President Alexander Lukashenko told the Third All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. The two-day forum took place in the Palace of the Republic in Minsk, the capital city.
Two major issues headlining the agenda were as folows: the performance of the country in 2001–2005 and draft program of social and economic development for the next five-year term.
In his speech to the assembly the president highlighted the prospects the country has for the period until 2011 and outlined the key tasks and targets that should be aimed at in order to give an impetus to this country’s development and upgrade the standard of living of all Belarusians. According to the head of state, Belarus has managed to work out its own unique development model based on prudent transformations. The model did without avalanche of privatization and shock therapy, as it happened elsewhere, but preserved the best achievements of the national economy and traditions.
“Our development policy remains the only right way to live. because of the high economic growth that has been observed for more than 10 years,” said Lukashenko. Belarus’ economic expansion was 7.5% a year on average compared with a 3.5% on average in the world.
Belarus managed to meet all key targets of social and economic development for 2001–2005. “We delivered because of the strong state authority, social policy and support of our people,” the state leader explained.
The standard of living is the key task for the five years to come. We need to aim at the standard of living of Western Europe, the president said. He believes the state needs to shift the focus to economic instruments from administrative levers. Initiative and independence are the main propellants that should be encouraged, Lukashenko said.
Business is another sector that will see significant changes and improvements: Alexander Lukashenko specifically noted that favorable conditions would be created to facilitate the development of market infrastructure, entrepreneurship and balance state and market regulation. Taxation rules might be revised, the president promised, adding that if there were some changes, they would certainly be for the better, as “permanent rules of the game” would be introduced. There were about 70 businessmen among the delegates to the assembly.
Belarus’ largest companies will go public only if there is a guaranteed economic impact, the president said. According to him, the key feature of Belarus’ production development in the period is the path of innovations. Investments in research and development are to rise by a third in 2006, and are expected to double by 2010. As for foreign trade, the state leader called the reduction in import of raw materials and increase in export of high-tech goods the priorities for the next five years.
Development of the village is yet another task of the country. Agro-stations will become centers of restoration of the village, the “growing points”, as the president put it, the carriers of social standards in the countryside. We have already built the first agro-stations that meet state-of-the-art standards. There will be comfortable houses in villages, but that’s not all: all agro-stations will have well-developed transport infrastructure and engineering facilities, medical services, educational establishments and culture clubs. All 44 social standards are to be met there, the president promised.
Healthcare financing will account for at least 7% of GDP in the period. Belarus will preserve free of charge and available medical services, but the quality of these services should be improved mostly by state-of-the-art technologies and modern health centers, the state leader believes. Belarus has to get rid of the gap between medical services in cities and in the countryside, Alexander Lukashenko said. All hospitals and clinics of the country will receive equipment meeting European standards, the president promised.
Belarus is a full member of the international community today, besides, it is one of those few members that pursue an independent foreign policy, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Our foreign policy is not worked out in other capital cities, however powerful, but is based on Belarus’ national interests,” the head of state said.
“This country’s foreign policy is peaceful and always aims at security in the region and in the world. We are doing our best for the relations between the major forces in Europe — the Collective Security Treaty Organization and NATO — to be based on partnership and cooperation. This should be real partnership and not master-slave relations,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
Belarus and its CIS partners managed to initiate the long-awaited reform of the OSCE. Belarus is using the potential of the Non-Aligned Movement to put forth its initiatives, besides, Belarus’ influence is growing in all integration bodies in the former Soviet Union, including the CIS, the EurAsEC and the CSTO.
“At the same time, Russia remains the key strategic partner for Belarus,” the president noted. “One can be certain now that the way of integration we chose 10 years ago was the only correct way. Union relations with Russia stand behind national security and the stable economic growth,” the president said.