Reaching mutually beneficial consensus and elaborating a plan of action during dialogue

Representatives of the Belarusian business community schedule 16th Assembly of Belarusian Business Circles to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Michal Oginski’s birth

Representatives of the Belarusian business community schedule 16th Assembly of Belarusian Business Circles to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Michal Oginski’s birth

Accompanied by the famous Farewell to Homeland polonaise, several hundred Belarusian businessmen stood solemnly as the string duo played, honouring the legacy of the great composer, before discussing topical issues.
The 2015 National Business Platform aims to produce an action plan of suggestions, showing authorities how they can ease entrepreneurial activity and improve the business climate. The plan is discussed and amended before being distributed to ministries, agencies, the Presidential Administration and regional and district executive committees.

Businessmen assert that the Platform produces results: around half of last year’s proposals have been implemented through legislative acts, explains Vladimir Karyagin, the Chairman of the Republican Confederation of Entrepreneurship. “Over the past three months, the draft project of the 2015 Platform has been amended around 20 times. It now includes 85 proposals, involving 67 diverse business associations and public organisations countrywide.”

Business structures’ opinions should bring momentum to the development of various state documents, as Irina Kostevich, the Deputy Economy Minister, admits. She notes that the recently adopted 2015 government plan was significantly improved by feedback from business associations. The document unites around 40 ground-level proposals. She tells us, “At the moment, the Economy Ministry is developing a strategy for small and medium-sized business development until 2018, proceeding from recommendations by the World Bank. Meanwhile, representatives of Belarusian business structures are acting as consultants.”

Among the most significant issues covered by the 2015 National Business Platform are the levelling of the tax burden and reduction of red tape within the Eurasian Economic Union. Businesses insist on the establishment of an efficient system of counteracting monopolies and the support of fair competition (via the creation of a state agency on antimonopoly policy). They are keen to launch a plenipotentiary to protect business rights: an ombudsman. They also hope to see legislation passed regarding non-banking and non-commercial financing of companies. Entrepreneurs additionally underline that small ‘corner’ shops are hampered by the need to stock the required ratio of imported and Belarusian products.

Businesses’ key request is the setting of a moratorium on increasing rental rates, penalty fees and the introduction of new taxes and fees — until 2018. Partners across the Eurasian Economic Union have taken these steps and our businesses are afraid of lacking a competitive edge against that of their neighbours.

The first Platform was adopted in 2007, with Belarusian entrepreneurs lobbying authorities for a representative voice. As Mr. Karyagin admits, consensus has been reached upon many points, with over 350 proposals realised, relating to the business climate. The institute of the ‘golden share’ has been abolished, in addition to state management of retail prices. Meanwhile, procedures of business registration have been simplified. The biggest breakthrough last year was the granting of permission for individual entrepreneurs to hire up to three employees from outside their families. Small businesses have even been promised that they may sell goods without documentary proof of purchase. Business unions believe that the Presidential decree (soon to be signed) is a real example of how businesses and authorities can and do agree.

By Alexander Benkovsky
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