Belarus was often called ‘an assembly workshop’ for the Soviet Union, with its highly qualified staff and huge production facilities. The Republic manufactured goods using components from across the USSR. However, when that huge Soviet ‘assembly line’ split, enterprises had to rebuild their supply and sales network independently; many failed, leading to closure.
Belarusian industrial giants survived the challenge with dignity, as well confirmed by the fact that, on average, two-thirds of all domestically produced machinery is exported. BelAZ produces a third of the world’s quarry trucks while MTZ manufactures every seventh tractor. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Steel Works is ranked fifth for metal cord production.
“The domestic machine building complex is of great significance to our economy,” asserts Belarus’ Industry Minister, Dmitry Katerinich. “Our qualified staff create innovative products which have gained worthy recognition across agro-industrial and housing-communal complexes, as well as with the forestry, transport, communications and healthcare branches. Our produce is also much in demand abroad.”
How has the Belarusian machine building industry succeeded in preserving and developing its potential? Specialists from the Industry Ministry believe that co-operative ties were essential. Domestically produced engines were supplied to GAZ and ZiL, while the Minsk Tractor Works and the Minsk Automobile Works closely liaised with Russian suppliers. The import substitution policy has also played a role in supporting the machine building branch, enabling Belarusian enterprises to receive orders previously imported from abroad. Co-operative ties between plants (subordinate to the Industry Ministry) have also yielded results while the production of absolutely new machinery or machinery of a higher quality has allowed imports to be reduced.
The Industry Ministry notes that ‘interaction with foreign partners is currently based on mutual benefit’. Co-operation profitable for all sides is vital, as is the raising of exports and reduction of imports. Belarus aims to only import those goods which are not manufactured domestically.