The conference was held under the aegis of the government. In attendance were Belarusian Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky, his deputies, ministers and CEOs of the largest groups. They have supplied a body of convincing arguments and explained why it is useful and profitable to invest in Belarus. So, why is Belarus attractive for foreign capital?
According to Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky, the macroeconomic situation in Belarus is characterised by a sustainable GDP growth, lowering rates of inflation, mounting investments, including foreign resource input. Despite various difficulties of the transition period, there are over 3.000 companies with foreign investments in the country. The most successful among them are "Bacco Bisov", "Medical", "Milavitsa", "Santa Bremor" and "Velcom". The cooperation with Austria`s Raiffeisenbank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development proved fruitful as well.
In 2004, the country`s economy attracted $1.5 billion in investments, $200 million up on the year. In general, the overall inflow of foreign investments to the fixed capital exceeded $5 billion. Belarus enjoys the lowest share of the foreign debt in GDP among developed states. Last year saw bank credits getting cheaper.
Deputy Prime-Minister Alexander Kobyakov emphasised that the country remains a large processing region on the Eurasian territory. It has embarked on structural reconstruction and modernisation of the economy and focused on the qualitative parameters of its development. They first of all have to do with competitive advantages of the country, a human factor and innovation approach. This means that investments accelerate positive changes and improve the quality of Belarusian-made goods. However, investments are not an end in itself, Alexander Kobyakov said. That is why we are not going to accept them "at whatever price or whichever conditions they offer." Belarus is all for partnership cooperation of the state, national business and foreign capital. The country needs investments to be poured in novelties, high technologies and the productions "that we feel need a boost."
In 2004, Belarus` economy attracted $1.5 billion in investments, $200 million up on the yearEconomy Minister Nikolai Zaichenko stressed in his report on the investment policy in Belarus that today the country has entered the era of investment resource renewal. This is believed to be a vital prerequisite of its dynamic and sustainable development. In this situation foreign and domestic companies should work under equal conditions, the minister said. Over 60 investment projects in different sectors were offered for consideration to guests from Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, China, RSA, India, Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Greece and other countries. The production of printing paper, MAZ retooling and reconstruction, the creation of a paraxylene-manufacturing complex at Mozyr Oil Refinery, the building of a new coal heat and power plant in Brest, renewal of the rail stock of the Belarusian Railways and the launch of seamless pipes at Belarusian Metallurgic Plant in Zhlobin are on list.
The Russian business was widely represented at the forum in the face of Slavneft, Itera, RussNeft, Sibneft and Sibur companies. The investors from the Russian Federation were open about being drawn by the wooing possibility of extensive production cooperation under the conditions of a single customs space, of using the Belarusian industrial and design base to manufacture cutting-edge machinery for subsequent sale in Russia and abroad. Favourable conditions for investing in consumer goods and service sectors have also attracted the Russians.
The Russian representatives voiced their opinions at the forum.
Besbernyi, Deloitte &Touche director for business development in the CIS, said:
- The business environment in Belarus is normal; one can work without any fear. Our company has been present on the Belarusian market for seven years already. Here in Minsk we have the biggest offshore office (a 60-strong staff).
Danilovich, Krionmash holding, stated:
We are very busy at the moment as we are going to open a company selling technical gases in Belarus. We offer Belarusian partners to establish cooperation along multiple vectors ranging from equipment supplies to various forms and investments. We will consider all proposals.
Potentsov, commercial director of "High Engineering Technologies" enterprise, said:
We have been working in Belarus for quite a while and I want to say that our impression from joint activities is a most favourable. We have a desire and interest in investing into the petrochemical sector of the country, for example, into technical and technological reconstruction of the plants. Our company has already submitted two corresponding proposals to the Belarusian government.
The attendants of the forum enthusiastically met the decision of the Belarusian side to continue creating equal economic conditions for foreign and domestic investors, giving an additional impetus to the development of entrepreneurship and improving customs and tax laws to make the investment climate more attractive. Though, according to Ivan Ivanov, technical cooperation head of the International Finance Corporation, the existing Investment Code is one of the best in the CIS states. He described the document as well-balanced with clear and transparent definitions and providing foreign investors with essential guarantees.
The guests welcomed the fact that the Foreign Investment Advisory Board is functioning under the Belarusian Council of Ministers. It consists of government officials, representatives of international organisations and investors themselves. The board operates on a constant-dialogue basis and deals with the issues related to tax policies, the improvement of tax laws, coordination of Free Economic Zones and facilitation of a favourable investment climate in general. By the way, the 3rd plenary sitting has been held in the framework of the conference.
Many think that Belarus is a good place to invest. The forum also granted an excellent opportunity to organise the exchange of opinions and information. And not only. Potential partners held talks at the conference. For instance, representatives of Russia`s Russpromavto and Minsk Engine Plant had an important meeting with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky in attendance. The talks were centred on the investment project pertinent to manufacturing Euro-3 and Euro-4 standards car engines in Minsk. Probably, a new Belarus-Russia joint venture will be set up in the Belarusian capital.