Renewal as the way to success
[b]President of Belarus delivers the State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly[/b]Delivering the annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly on April 19th, the Belarusian President again determined a range of tactical areas f development of the Belarusian state and society for the nearest time. The major topic of the Address, which was entitled ‘Country’s Renewal — the Way to Success and Prosperity’, became the recently announced state programme of large-scale modernisation of Belarusian enterprises.
Delivering the annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly on April 19th, the Belarusian President again determined a range of tactical areas f development of the Belarusian state and society for the nearest time. The major topic of the Address, which was entitled ‘Country’s Renewal — the Way to Success and Prosperity’, became the recently announced state programme of large-scale modernisation of Belarusian enterprises.
Country with safety margin
The President started his speech from the fact that Belarus boasts a good safety margin under the conditions of the protracted world crisis. According to the Head of State, the year of 2013 is a ‘key year of the current five-year plan’. “If we look back, we can see that the start of the five-year plan was quite complicated, and everyone remembers this. We were affected by the world financial and economic crisis. However, we’ve managed to stabilise the situation. Today, we overcome confidently the bar of $500 of the average salary in the country. I repeat: the average salary. We’ve coped with high inflation, calmed the currency market, provided the budget surplus and kept gold and foreign currency reserves at safe level,” noted
Mr. Lukashenko. The Belarusian leader stated that Belarus’ all successes have been noticed in the world. According to the annual UN rating, we are among top 50 states regarding the Human Development Index. This is the highest index among the CIS states.
“However, there are no fewer reasons for concern. The world around us is still in the crisis. Dramatic events in Greece and Cyprus, that, unfortunately, affect Europe, are sad proof of this. There are no favourable forecasts for the future. Moreover, the world’s financial and political elite is at a loss. Simple ways of solving the problems like the printing of blank Dollars and Euros, as well as sophisticated financial manipulations have no effect, but there is lack of power and courage for inevitable fundamental reforms. By the way, they all require reforms from us,” added the Belarusian President.
According to the Head of State, in such periods of the history, the mankind always applies to basic economic values — ability to provide themselves with essential commo-dities: food, clothing, shelter. “We have a good safety margin in this respect; we have good skills, because Belarus has developed the real sector of its economy and hasn’t blown a soap financial bubble,” underlined the President. “Further growth of the welfare of every person depends not only on the operational measures taken by the authorities, but also on the correct choice of the country’s development strategy. Taking into account extreme interdependence of countries in the modern world, we should understand well the existing global processes and our place in them.”
No one abolished tasks to raise economic figures
According to the President, the results of the economy work in the first quarter of this year are positive, but only against the background of the current development of the world economy. The GDP growth rate amounted to 103.5 percent, while that of investments in basic capital reached 112.5 percent, including almost 122 percent into equipment. “We observe a positive balance foreign trade in goods and services. The currency income is growing from month to month. Gold and foreign currency reserves are formed in the equivalent of more than two months of imports. Moreover, a stable situation on the domestic market comes from the fact that the supply of foreign currency exceeds the demand in all segments. By the way, since the beginning of the year, the National Bank has bought nearly $600m. Though the refinancing rate of the National Bank still remains high, taking into account the decrease of the inflation, it has been reduced up to 27 percent per annum. This means that the credit resources for the real sector of the economy are gradually becoming more affordable,” continued Mr. Lukashenko.
However, the Belarusian President asserted that despite this positive trend, the reserves of ready products are growing actively in the warehouses of industrial enterprises both in absolute and relative terms. As of April 1st, there were over Br30tr of ready products in the warehouses. — double compared to the last year. What is the reason? I have not cancelled my requirement to the Government to be one big ministry of trade. I ask local authorities to join the Government immediately and produce definite results regarding the unloading of warehouses,” demanded the Head of State.
“The most important is that nobody has cancelled the tasks related to economy growth this year. The Government and the Parliament voluntary agreed with these figures. Please, both the Government and the Parliament, start fulfilling your own decisions!” said
Mr. Lukashenko. “Remember, today there is no reason to relax. Yes, it seems that crisis has been left behind and we are moving forward gradually. However, when we relax at least for a while, the life will severely punish us for this, because the markets of our main consumers — the European Union and Russia — have sagged, and the situation is very complicated.”
Three whales of modernisation
“The key problem of our economy is competitiveness of domestic goods. In order to win in the severe competitive war at the global market, we should constantly update our knowledge, technologies, equipment and management systems. So, the main backbone idea for Belarus today is the idea of renewal,” explained the Head of State.
Nevertheless, Mr. Lukashenko stressed that renewal is not the rejection of our model and the previous path. Renewal is a new stage of our development. “When we talk about upgrading and modernisation, ultimately this doesn’t mean that this is the President’s fiction. We approached this long ago, and even moved forward significantly in some main directions in terms of modernisation. We renovate old enterprises while also constructing new facilities,” said the Belarusian leader.
“We should rely on three strong national projects, enabling us to update the state. The first project is modernisation of our economy. The second one is informatisation of society. The third project is the support of youth and its large-scale involvement in the state’s construction,” emphasised the President.
According to Mr. Lukashenko, despite the financial crisis, the intellectual progress of the world has not slowed down at all, but is only accelerating while gaining tremendous momentum. “I’m convinced that it is new scientific inventions, and not sophisticated financial schemes, that will start the ‘dying out engine’ of the global economy. The global whirlpool of new ideas, technologies and inventions is also sucking Belarus. Despite the fact that we are an average (according to European standards) state without any planetary ambitions, we already can’t think of our destiny separately from global processes,” underlined the President. “Our choice is small. We can either adapt to rapid changes, or stay on the sidelines of the history. There is no other choice.”
According to the Head of State, modern times have three main requirements: speed, flexibility and creativity. This is connected with rapidly changing world and the appearance of new ideas and technologies, as well as the necessity to constantly adapt towards these changes and propose something new. “Those who always copy will always lag behind. Therefore, on the one hand, any young nation has to learn from the outside world, while, on the other hand, it should always remember that at some stage it should be ready to bring something of its own in the world. Only creativity can ensure a breakthrough in the group of leaders,” Mr. Lukashenko is convinced.
‘Window of opportunities’
The Head of State named the current stage of socio-economic development a special stage, requiring accelerated paces of modernisation process. “The fact is that happening at the present time change of the dominant technological structures opens a ‘window of opportunities’ for successful entry into a new wave of economic growth. In these times of large-scale global technological movements the ‘window of opportunities’ enables individual countries to get ahead while making an economic breakthrough. We should take advantage of this experience,” believes the President.
Mr. Lukashenko reminded that these issues had been discussed in March at the meeting of the Council of Ministers. “Even if in tough and severe form, but we’ve discussed these issues and, in my opinion, we’ve understood each other and agreed,” noted the Head of State.
Moreover, Mr. Lukashenko accentuated that a criterion was set up for the effectiveness of modernisation — the achievement of annual revenue per employee of no less than $60,000. “This is the major and fundamental criterion for everyone. The bar is $60,000 per each employee while orders and medals should be awarded only from the sales produce,” stressed the President.
Lukashenko also noted that the necessary conditions have been determined which should be created by the Government, the National Bank and the Governors for successful modernisation. “There’s no need to convince anyone in the importance of the modernisation. Its necessity is obvious,” the Head of State is confident. “We should improve all the processes, let alone the base and the foundation of any state and society — economy. So, there is no sense to argue if modernisation is necessary or not. This is an objective process of state and society development.”
Mr. Lukashenko paid attention to the fact that Belarus’ major partner in the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space — Russia — has already joined the World Trade Organisation, while our second partner — Kazakhstan — is on the verge of joining. “This means that we are actually working in the conditions of severe global competition. So, there is no other choice, but to rapidly update our economy,” the President believes.
The Head of State noted that media is wicked a lot about the issue of modernisation today. “Our opponents say that the authorities have found another pre-election slogan. They say that everything will be limited just with empty talk. They come to a strange conclusion that the competitiveness of the growth of the potential of Belarusian products has been exhausted and in absolute terms, the degradation of our economy is going on. Therefore, there is no need to modernise it, we should just forget about it and take a radically different model,” said the Belarusian leader. “Well, we’ve already faced this. Over this time, I have already got such lessons several times. I was suggested: ‘There is no need in new harvester, no need in new machines, we will buy everything abroad’, ‘these enterprises should be liquidated, sold for a penny, we don’t need them’. Time has passed. We have chosen a different path. And what do we have today? It turns out that those, who suggested this to us, say today: ‘Belarusians have done a good job’. Someone whispers somewhere in the diplomatic sidelines, but we, you and I, see that we were right, choosing this way,” noted the Head of State.
“Our opponents, enemies, and the ‘fifth column` have no new ideas; they again use their ‘old weapon’ suggesting to close everything and liquidate... Well, let’s imagine this: we close everything today and what will people do tomorrow. Where will they get paid?” said the President. “Shortly speaking, these are old songs on ‘let’s destroy to the ground, and then...’, which have merged countries in the chaos of social disruption and economic regress several times in the history. As they say, to break is not to build — much mind is not required.
Mr. Lukashenko emphasised that our way is not destruction, but creation, not Manilov’s dreams, but real projects of systematic economic development, improvement and steady increase of our production potential.
Modernisation is underway
The President of Belarus noted that modernisation has started long ago in the country and that we are now entering the final stages of modernisation. The Head of State brought as an example petrochemical industry. Technical modernisation of the light stream at Belshina JSC has enabled to organise the production of new generation tyres while contemporary manufacture of polyether textile threads was organised at Svetlogorsk Khimvolokno.
Continuing to enumerate the achievements in economic modernisation, Mr. Lukashenko also named the development of BelAZ ‘super-heavy’ heavy-duty dump truck with a capacity of 450 tonnes which will be exported to the markets of Kazakhstan, Siberia, the Far East and Asian countries. The first models of this vehicle will appear in summer 2013.
“The launch into exploitation of the iso-
merisation unit at Mozyr Oil Refinery will enable us to receive automobile fuel meeting contemporary economical norms and the requirements of European standards,” added the President.
However, Mr. Lukashenko believes that we cannot be focused only on these familiar to us the traditional sectors of the economy. “Already within this five-year plan, not less than 40 percent of export growth will be provided by high-tech production with low import capacity, bio-, nanotechnologies, pharmacy, information technologies and optoelectronics. For the past two years, we have created and develop 30 biotechnological productions on the basis of domestic developments. Agricultural and pharmaceutical areas with the greatest growth potential are especially important for us. By 2015, we will reach volumes of hundreds of thousands of Dollars, for the five-year plan, more than five-fold increase in production is expected — from $70 to $360 million — and revenue per employee in these areas from the current $39 to $212 thousand. Not planned $60,000, but $212,000!” explained the President.
By 2015, due to Belarusian technologies the complete demand of the domestic market in feed additives will be meet, as well as need for proteins and conservatives of feed, milk replaces, medicines of blood plasma, medical diagnosis and treatment at the cellular level. “This is a new bio production with high added value, which will give us advantages in the market of the Single Economic Space,” noted the Belarusian leader. Mr. Lukashenko also added that ‘these are just a few examples, the list of which can be continued both according to industries and regions’.
The Head of State brought the examples of how modernisation shouldn’t be conducted. “According to the Committee of State Control, in 2007, the Gomel branch of Petrikov House-Building Plant decided to reconstruct sintering plant with a solid increase of capacity. They have described an investment project until 2015.
For several years, only the Ministry of Architecture and Construction Innovation Fund has allocated Br9bn for reconstruction. Over the several years, Br9bn has been injected into the reconstruction from the Architecture and Construction Ministry’s innovation fund. However, they didn’t take into account that house building factories are moving to the production of modern upgraded panels, where construction expanded clay is not used. In other words, knowing about reducing the need for expanded clay, they planned growth of its production. The result is that this money was thrown to the wind,” continued the President.
“In order to avoid such situations, every enterprise should have a modernisation plan, confirmed with deep study of the market and prospects of development,” resumed Mr. Lukashenko.
Agriculture should become lossless
“The most important task in 2013 is to ensure the financial sustainability of farms, accelerate their self-financing, and, first of all, do everything for loss-making companies to disappear,” underlined the Head of State.
“The strategy of development of the agricultural branch has been determined in the Republic. “We aren’t going to reject it,” said the President. High levels of expansion of production volumes and food exports, as well as the increase of economic efficiency and incomes of rural employees, scheduled for a five-year plan, should be fulfilled,” asserted Mr. Lukashenko. He added that the question is how to do it better? How to achieve the highest payback from capital investments, from each hectare of land and each farm?
“Frankly speaking, I’m worried about quality characteristics of the situation in the industry rather than about volume indicators,” admitted the President. “We’ve learnt how to reap good harvests. And we sustainably increase the gross production. The pace of growth in 2012 was 117.5 percent. The food export reached almost $5bn — 125 percent on 2011.” Meanwhile, the Head of State is concerned we still don’t manage to reach the level of the lossless operation at all farms.
“Without taking into account the state support, over 500 organisations -- about one third of the total number -- are unprofitable. The debt load of the agricultural sector is very high. These are serious disadvantages in the work of the industry,” emphasised the President. Therefore, according to him, the most important task in 2013 is to ensure the financial sustainability of farms, accelerate their self-financing, and, first of all, do everything for loss-making companies to disappear. “This will greatly improve the economy of the entire agricultural sector and will help raise the level of income of villagers,” the Head of State is confident.
According to the President, technological renovation of production, the improvement of management methods and structural changes should promote the dynamic development of the agricultural sector.
“In the next year or two, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and local authorities should primarily establish a major agricultural complex in every district,” believes Mr. Lukashenko. “It should combine a number of agricultural production enterprises and processing plants to ensure a completed cycle of production and sales of goods. There are examples of good work. These are agricultural complexes Snov, Dzerzhinsky, Zhdanovichi and several others.”
Secondly, according to the Head of State, to increase export potential the industry needs to complete the creation of food companies this year, with such integrated structures primarily focusing on the expansion of sales markets both in the CIS and non-CIS states.
“However, everything should be without excessive cases,” required the President. He underlined that we don’t need voluntarism in this process. Uniting the poor, one will not get much advantage. We should look for ways for the poor to become rich tomorrow and to make any steps only in this direction,” said Mr. Lukashenko.
“Thirdly, taking into account modern requirements of the food market and the possibilities of receiving greater profit, it’s necessary to change the structure of our agricultural exports,” stressed the President. He noted that it’s not enough just to make animal breeding, that provides 90 percent of food exports, a priority of development, but the main thing is to increase the depth of the raw material processing. We should sell products with higher added value. It’s enough to bring carcasses and semi- carcasses to the markets; we should sell the final products,” said Mr. Lukashenko.
According to the Head of State, salaries of budgetary workers, pensions and allowances in 2013 will be raised several times. “The growth of population welfare is one of the major goals of our policy,” noted Mr. Lukashenko. The number of low-income households is falling both in cities and villages. “Yes, in recent years, a considerable gap has formed between payment for labour in the budgetary sphere and the national economy as a whole. Today, this correlation stands at around 80 percent while it should be no less than 90 percent,” said the Head of State.
It has been stipulated in this year’s budget that the first grade wage rate of the budgetary workers, as well as pensions and allowances, will be enhanced several times. “However, this shouldn’t be simply indexation of price growth or ‘imitation’ of salary growth,” warned the Belarusian leader. “I’ve put a task before the Government this March to reduce the gap in labour payment among those working in the budgetary sphere and those working in the national economy. After the first six months I’m waiting for the report on the adopted measures aiming to change the situation.”
“My requirement remains unchanged — salaries should be earned!” underlined
Mr. Lukashenko. “Their growth depends completely on us. If we manage to modernise enterprises, enhance labour productivity and beneficially sell our goods, we’ll be paid more and, accordingly, the incomes of budgetary workers will increase, as will pensions and allowances.
Meanwhile, the Head of State admitted that the budgetary sphere in the country needs optimisation. “You would agree with me that a teacher or a medical worker shouldn’t feel ‘defective’ before employees from other spheres. Moreover, I’d like to underline that there shouldn’t be any populism,” added the Head of State. “I’ve said about medical workers and teachers. However, I could have said the same about others. Unless they begin to optimise themselves, there can’t be any conversation about high salaries.”
For example, Mr. Lukashenko proposed to raise the rate of teachers from 18 to 20 hours per week. “Meet us halfway in this respect, as happened with the state apparatus where I made the decision to make redundant 25 percent of the staff. The nation will soon understand if we use this situation to raise salaries for state officials,” believes the President. Why can’t they do the same with these two hours in order to show this to people? Why hasn’t the Education Ministry cleared our educational structure from all types of ‘hangers-on’? There’re so many various methodical and other groups there who don’t bring any benefit to education. They only demand from teachers to write plans: targeted plans, promising plans and others. What’s the essence of these plans?” added the Mr. Lukashenko. “Unless you do this, don’t even start talking about salaries, and don’t dump this issue either on the Government or the President,” noted the Belarusian leader.
“If you don’t do this in the nearest time, you will follow in the footsteps of notorious ministers,” warned the President. “Don’t nurture illusions that objective differentiation in labour payment will disappear. I refer only to elimination of distortions.”
“Of course, it would be nice if everyone’s salary rises as quicker and more often as possible. However, there’re no easy solutions here and empty printed money immediately leads to price growth. This brings to nothing any rise in salaries and incomes,” summed up the Belarusian President.
Informatisation for breakthrough
The Presidential Administration, the Government and the Operational and Analytical Centre of the President of the Republic of Belarus need to team up for the development of proposals on the organisation that would specialise in IT penetration in Belarus. “In this respect, I instruct the Government jointly with the Presidential Administration and the Operational and Analytical Centre to think over and submit proposals on the definite structure with all necessary powers, which will govern all process,” said Mr. Lukashenko. The President explained that the world experience clearly shows that successful informatisation can be conducted not within separate departments but only in a centralised manner, according to the single plan and from the single centre.
The Head of State stressed that IT penetration should become a large-scale nationwide project and it should cover every area of our life: from online education and telemedicine to computer systems of fuel consumption record. Information technologies, like the nervous system, should connect everything: from economy and education to management and security.”
Mr. Lukashenko underlined that IT is able to secure the achievement of several strategic targets. Foremost, it’s able to eliminate the red tape problem through the implementation of e-government project. Moreover, it’s possible to create a brand new accounting and control system: from monitoring of financial flows to the control over the movement of goods. Moreover, another moment is additional effect in energy saving, as informatisation may help achieve technological breakthrough in trade, education, medicine and security while also giving a significant impetus for the development of domestic IT market. “It’s vital to understand the peculiarity of the IT sphere, as it gives high profits under minimum material expenditures,” said the President.
Moreover, according to the President, Belarus finds itself in a situation of a wheelbarrow without a wheel. “Belarusian programmers are working in the West while Belarus itself lags in the IT sphere,” noted the Head of State. Moreover, Mr. Lukashenko also reminded that the country launched a project aiming to construct 4G LTE-standard networks. “Unfortunately, we’re ahead of the curve in this area but also try to catch up. These networks are successfully operating in many countries while we only begin to create them,” said the President. The Head of State noted in this respect that it’s better late than never but it’s bad that the government hasn’t seen this in due time. “Even if it did see, there were no proposals. If one proposes they will have to implement this tomorrow,” noted the Head of State. As a result, other structures, rather than the Government and the Communications Ministry, became initiators of the project.
The President stressed that a small state cannot take everything under control at once. Belarus needs its own niche in the global economy of knowledge. “High quality of our education in IT is justly praised worldwide,” the Head of State noted.
Which investors Belarus needs
Any enterprise can be sold in Belarus but there won’t ever be any backroom deals. “The principles have been announced more than once. If you want to buy anything, then pay the market price, plus, take a commitment to invest money in the production, save jobs, give people a decent salary,” said the Head of State.
Mr. Lukashenko is confident that privatisation isn’t a panacea for all woes. “The IMF, the European Union and anti-crisis funds all advise to conduct privatisation and to sell state enterprises. However, there’s no need to bend us very low and our partners and our close brothers shouldn’t do this,” he said adding that Belarus won’t agree for selling at dumping prices. “As soon as situation on the market normalises we’ll start discussing this issue. I haven’t invented anything. Europe and America say that now it’s not profitable to sell assets,” assured the President.
If someone tries to use this situation and divide the country, this won’t happen,” said Mr. Lukashenko. According to him, Belarus has markets and domestic produce can rival what is manufactured by would-be shareholders in quality and price. He brought MAZ as an example which boasts its own modernisation programme. I ask potential investors, “How much will you invest in the modernisation of MAZ, since you came here?” The answer is that there is no money. Moreover, I’m informed that there are foreigners from Germany and America behind them. These are just interested to close MAZ here, as they don’t need competitor,” said the President. However, according to him, it’s not enough for Belarus to produce an axle or cook cabs by hand at a large machine building plant. My dear, the Belarusian people elected me, and I won’t be involved in this action!” he emphasised. “Do you want to create a joint management company? Let’s do it. Let’s work 3-5 years and see what we will get from this. I think that this is the last time I answer the question about privatisation of Belarusian enterprises by foreign, as well as our domestic investors,” added the Belarusian leader.
The Head of State also focused attention on the major approach to modernisation. Its essence is not just the update, but the creation of new quality and achievement of higher standards and competitiveness. “Only then, we will get more efficient economy structure — not import based, but export oriented. This is the sense of our structural reforms, not in the distribution of state assets for a song, absolute privatisation, as we are advised by home-grown and ‘import’ experts, but in the acquisition of new quality of economy,” said the President.
Meanwhile, he underlined that he doesn’t refer to radical change in property relations. The practice shows that the enterprise management system is the most important for medium and large enterprises, where hundreds or thousands of employees work, and not who owns it -- state or a private owner. We take easy this issue and we support the diversity of ownership forms, but our approach to privatisation is unchanged,” noted Mr. Lukashenko.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian President noted that we need such privatisation and such investors that will ensure the expansion of the commodity markets and the creation of new industries and technologies, as well as good salaries to employees. “We don’t need such investors that pay little salary to employees and all money is taken by the group of shareholders,” he summed up noting that one should be equal to our joint project with the Swiss Company Stadler — one of the European leading manufacturers of railway rolling stock. Together with Belkommunmash, they have established an enterprise for the production of the railway and urban passenger electric transport in the Minsk Region. “Very soon, this site will start launching excellent Belarus-made modern electric trains and urban electric transport which are equal in their quality to the Swiss transport,” said Mr. Lukashenko. He paid attention that although the plant is still under construction, there is already a decent portfolio of foreign orders for its products. “Moreover, our co-operation with the owner of this company, Peter Spuhler, does not stop there. With his participation, we are negotiating about the production of special machinery for municipal services with another Swiss manufacturer,” continued the Head of State. Accordingly, a corresponding investor has plans to set up in Belarus the production of communal machinery (undeveloped by the country) which is of great demand worldwide. Mr. Lukashenko underlined that such investors are welcome on the Belarusian land.
Ensuring privileged housing doesn’t become rented…
In the State of the Nation Address the President noted that state support in housing construction will be targeted as well as strictly controllable regarding its target use. “We also set strict requirements for renting of housing which was constructed using the state support. These people have built housing using privileged loans and then offered it for rent and received income from this. Then why we helped these people if they don’t need housing?” said the President. “Each family should have their own flat, a house and a roof over their heads. This is why in the past years we’ve injected colossal funds into housing construction even in violation of the laws of macroeconomics.”
The Head of State noted that hundreds of families have acquired their housing due to very powerful state support and we built 5m sq.m. of housing per year on average. Moreover, over half of these were for those in need to improve their living conditions. We outstrip all CIS states in these positions,” explained Mr. Lukashenko.
The President announced that, “Direct state support of citizens in ensuring housing is being currently preserved and will be preserved in future. However, it’s becoming more targeted while taking into account real financial opportunities of citizens. We’ll be providing state support only to those who really need it. To everyone who needs it!”
Upon the President’s instruction by this April the lists of such families have been adjusted. As a result, 85,000 citizens were struck off the list; these hadn’t right to be among those on the waiting list.
According to Mr. Lukashenko, from this year, housing is built in line with a state order for those who are on the waiting list. “At first, a house will be constructed and then ready-made accommodation will be allocated to citizens on prices which are formed on the date of the house commissioning (with a privileged bank loan issues),” explained the Belarusian leader.
Moreover, the opportunities are also widened for citizens to independently solve their housing issue. “We’re forming a sector of rent housing while increasing the share of individual housing construction,” said the President of Belarus.
Developers will be strictly controlled
“Moreover, in the nearest time, the responsibility of developers in the shared-equity construction will be made more rigorous. The terms of cost of construction, stipulated in the contract, will be rigidly controlled and strictly observed,” said the Head of State adding that if these are violated due to the fault of developers all additional expenditures will be covered by them. Moreover, developers will also pay a significant penalty to equity holders.
The President warned several times the leadership of regional and district executive committees, as well as the Minsk City Executive Committee, that responsible developers should construct. “It isn’t normal when developers come and take resources in our banks as intermediaries, hire our construction firm which builds for them and then sell housing at the highest prices on the market. Is it normal?!”
The President stressed, “You should take this money in the banks, come up to developers, oblige them to build — these are primarily state enterprises and even private companies on which you have a considerable influence — and then sell on a normal price and put money into the state pocket.” According to
Mr. Lukashenko, there shouldn’t be such charlatans on the construction market. “They don’t understand anything in construction; but are hanging about close to Ladutko or Lukashenko, showing that they are the closest and the dearest. Then they go to a minister and begins to run rings around them. Specialists should construct, take loans from the banks and invest them,” noted the Belarusian leader.
Reduction of state apparatus
The President also tackled the norms of the recently adopted Decree which envisages the reduction of over 13,600 state officials in Belarus. According to Mr. Lukashenko, the model of state management should meet the real state of public relations, so we’re now pursuing another stage of improvement of the management system.
“Of course, on the one side, there’re not many state officials in our country. The number of officials is double in Austria, Slovakia and Bulgaria — the countries which can be comparable with Belarus in terms of population and size. On the other side, when calling the population to save resources we can’t allow overspending for the state apparatus, and we don’t need this today. Saving should be demonstrated in one’s own example and we have reserves for this,” noted the President adding that central state authorities will be ‘cut’ by around 25 percent, regional executive committees — by 29 percent while district executive committees — by 17 percent.
“Meanwhile, the reduction shouldn’t be senseless and mechanical. We can’t allow losses of initiatives and responsible workers who are the core of the state apparatus. First of all, those should go away who accidentally found their way to the state apparatus or who don’t see themselves on the state service,” noted Mr. Lukashenko.
Alongside the reduction of the state personnel, it’s also necessary to revise the functions of state authorities. “The departments complain that there’s much work and they can’t cope up. However, if we look closer, half of functions should have been already rejected. As a result, they burden themselves and the population, and enterprises also suffer. I’d like to say that all money -- saved on the reduction of the state apparatus — will be given to raise salaries for state officials. A person, who devotes themselves to servicing the state and is deprived of other opportunities to earn, should be able to maintain their families,” emphasised the President.
Moreover, Mr. Lukashenko also said that he is often informed that there’s some tension among state officials in the view of the reduction. “Some feel offended by the President’s decision. I underline that we won’t offend anyone. All those who are worthy to serve in the state apparatus to the nation and the state will be employed and involved. Those talented people who’ve found their way to the state service accidentally will be obligatory given the work.”
Prices need to be stopped
The President is confident that at present, there’re no and there can’t be any grounds for price rises. “Any facts of their increase above the forecast level, especially what concerns consumer goods, should become the issue of immediate and strict investigation. The Government and the National Bank, alongside local authorities, were strictly demanded to perform price regulation more efficiently,” said the Head of State. According to the Belarusian leader, the domestic market should be decisively protected from all those who try to make money out of surplus profit while using their position.
“We should also monitor prices in the sphere of housing and public utilities in the same way. It’s necessary to control estimates of expenditures of almost each structure in the housing and public utilities, power engineering and gas branch. The feasibility of expenditures at each stage of price formation should be controlled in the strictest way,” underlined Mr. Lukashenko. “In practice, it’s vital to be guided by a well-known rule: prices grow quickly where someone misuses their offices on the market and who calculate these prices carelessly and irresponsibly,” noted the Head of State. “My requirement towards the Government and the National Bank remains unchanged: the growth of consumer prices within a year shouldn’t exceed the forecast figures. It would be better if this rise stands at about 10 percent. Is it little?!”
The State of the Nation Address lasted for more than two and a half hours. In the end Mr. Lukashenko answered the most burning questions of the deputies and made it clear that several moments in his performance will receive continuation in the form of instructions to ministries and departments.
The Head of State underlined that optimisation and the improvement of the state apparatus’ activity directly refer to the power bloc.
According to the President, the Armed Forces are undergoing serious modernisation “Of course, we aren’t going to be at war with anyone; however, we’ve always paid and will continue to pay special attention to the provision of military security. The quality of preparation of overhead personnel and the troops has been significantly raised.”
According to him, the foundation of the Investigation Committee has completely justified itself. “The structure and functions of the Interior Ministry have been optimised and the work is currently being finished to set up an independent State Committee of Expert Evidences. This is the modernisation of the power bloc. I say this so that no one says that this is the invention of the President on the eve of the presidential elections. I tell you what has been already done,” added the Head of State.
“A range of serious organisational and personnel decisions was adopted to strengthen the protection of the state border and the order will be established at the checkpoints. I’ve addressed this issue at least thrice and have warned the top officials of the State Border Committee that have been renewed considerably recently: God forbid that anyone else easily crosses the state border, you will have yourselves only to blame. I’d like to warn everyone, who tries to cross the state border (where I also used to serve), that we’ll act without mercy. The situation has deteriorated so much that border guards are afraid to stop a trespasser, who crushes everything on the way to enter Belarus. So I would like to issue a public warning that the border guards will use firearms upon the first act of disobedience,” underlined the President.
Struggle against corruption
“Economy is the basis which is the foundation for the state and the whole national security. We can’t slow down in struggling against corruption primarily there where there’s big money budgetary money. Each official should clearly understand that they will have to answer according to the law for the use of powers in mercenary purposes,” noted the President.
Foreign economic contacts
“We should go where we’re waited for. I’ve already instructed the Foreign Ministry to completely reorient the policy of our foreign economic and political missions according to our interests. We should seek out those countries where we are welcomed and which are ready to open new markets for us,” said the Head of State.
According to the President, the Belarusian-Chinese co-operation is a positive example. The same applies to India, Vietnam, Venezuela and the neighbouring states. Belarus has also begun tapping into the huge African market.
Speaking about the Single Economic Space, Mr. Lukashenko noted that in this area the policy of Belarus is absolutely clear and transparent. “We’re moving towards the Eurasian Union jointly with Russia and Kazakhstan. Probably, we’re ready for this Eurasian Union even more than others do and we’ll definitely build it,” stressed the President of Belarus.
Co-operation with SES and West
“We’re connected by the Union State relations with brotherly Russia and we have no political disagreements. We enter the highest level of the bilateral collaboration as part of the Union State,” noted the Head of State adding that the relations with the neighbours are a natural priority for Belarus.
Mr. Lukashenko stressed that Belarus hadn’t ever created any problems and difficulties for its neighbours, especially those located in the West. However, I’d like to repeat again that we won’t ever fall on our kneed in front of someone,” emphasised Mr. Lukashenko. There’s no need to make pressure on us. You’ve already assured that all these sanctions are counter-productive.”
“Don’t force us to introduce same-sex marriages. This will not happen in Belarus, at least in the near future. That is for sure, when I am the President,” said Mr. Lukashenko meaning western countries. “Moreover, we definitely won’t have fewer democracy than you have,” assured the President of Belarus.
The President instructed to make proposals aiming to simplify or abolish the visa regime.
The traditional annual State of the Nation Address delivered by the Head of State on April 19th to the Belarusian nation and the National Assembly, can be called sensational without exaggeration, since it contained a range of conceptual announcements and ideas which testify to the start of the new stage in the country’s history.
Agrarian-industrial formation in Belarus is replaced by the era of IT which penetrate all spheres of the society. Before usually cool-headed and unhurried Belarusians rapid time puts new key requirements: speed, flexibility and creativity. The economic safety margin for this has been created in Belarus. Now, the political will has been declared: the country has firmly settled down to a complex, yet the only correct and promising course of renovation.