Not only forthcoming elections are a true test for authorities. Other aspects are also vital.
During his recent visit to Minsk Tractor Works JSC, Alexander Lukashenko notes that private sector development is a priority for Belarus
According to the Head of State, new Chinese credit lines will be used to develop private business in Belarus. He commented that loans on preferential terms are destined not only for large projects, since small businesses also need support. “I’d like to give these loans to small businesses, in the private sector. They are free to take them, provided repayment is guaranteed. We need to accelerate the creation of an alternative economy and would like more private businesses to emerge, work and develop,” he underlined.
The recent state visit by China’s Chairman, Xi Jinping, has addressed a number of co-operative issues between MTZ and its Chinese partners. “If you’re unable to reach the Chinese market and work there after this, it’s a lost cause!” Mr. Lukashenko declared.
The Head of State stressed that Mr. Jinping is a friend of Belarus and is genuinely interested in finding new avenues to advance co-operation. “He has gathered his people, giving them concrete instructions with one purpose: to help Belarusians, because they have never failed. It was a milestone visit,” Mr. Lukashenko added. “When he was leaving Belarus, he said that he hadn’t expected Belarus to be as it is or for his visit to be so productive. Chinese never say anything without reason.”
According to the President, a major step has been made in the development of inter-regional ties between Belarus and China. He believes that serious changes have been introduced into Belarusian-Chinese relations as a result of the visit, which will help address ‘trouble spots’ in the Belarusian economy.
“You must understand the present situation. Hold on to your jobs and listen less to babblers,” Mr. Lukashenko told MTZ staff. According to the Head of State, tough competition is a global truth, so Belarusian enterprises need to manufacture competitive products, with good design and quality. He warned that, while Belarusian goods sometimes command double the price of their rivals, this is a situation which may not continue forever.”
The Head of State is convinced that world conflict stems from economic reasons: the desire for oil, natural gas, metals and final product sales. He states, “Fierce fighting is occurring, sometimes transforming into hot warfare. In these hard times, and being a small state, we need to withstand, sustain and preserve our country, its production facilities and labour.”
According to the President, the forthcoming Presidential elections (scheduled for 2015) will prove a test for authorities. “We need to prepare worthily, avoiding populism — so that people do not reproach us after the elections for having made false promises.”
Mr. Lukashenko has asked the Government to do all it can to protect the domestic market from the unjustified import of products which can be manufactured domestically. “God forbid if our companies buy tractors and other equipment which is produced in Belarus,” the President said. He did not exclude the possibility that modern equipment can have certain drawbacks. “We should understand that we’ve developed some technologies from scratch in recent years; naturally, time is needed to fine-tune equipment,” Mr. Lukashenko admitted. “With this in mind, some drawbacks are possible. Minsk’s authorities have imported equipment for municipal services despite a plant [producing Belarusian tractors] being situated nearby. However, this plant can immediately repair any component,” he added.
Addressing top level Governmental officials, Mr. Lukashenko stressed, “We are not a WTO member, so we do not have obligations. Let’s protect our domestic market of irons, tractors and cars.” According to the Head of State, a special session is planned soon, to discuss these issues. The Government is to report on measures taken and explain the feasibility of certain imports. “We have opened the country to everyone but we must also protect and support local manufacturers, promoting their products. Only in this way can we diversify our markets,” Mr. Lukashenko added.
“As regards the West, they [representatives of Western countries] have visited me and I have warned them. I’d like the Government to realise this. We have told them that they have fenced themselves off from us. If we do the same, we’ll see how they find routes through the Baltic States or Ukraine,” the President said.
Mr. Lukashenko emphasised that, even when Russia imposed retaliatory sanctions on a number of western products, Belarus never stopped co-operating with western suppliers.
By Vasily Kharitonov