Safe haven for investors
Alexander Lukashenko demands urgent measures to accelerate construction of Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park
By Vasily Kharitonov
The President focused on the issue during a recent government session, discussing the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park. The idea of setting up a joint industrial zone in Belarus was first raised during a meeting between the President of Belarus and the former Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, during a visit by a Chinese delegation to Belarus in 2010.
During a visit to Belarus by the Chairman of the Standing Commission of the National People’s Congress of China, Wu Bangguo, in September 2011, an inter-governmental agreement was signed on the establishment of the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park, ratified by both countries in 2012.
The Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park is being set up in line with the Decree of the President of Belarus, in the Minsk Region’s Smolevichi District. The 8,000+ hectare site will enjoy a special legal regime lasting fifty years.
The structure of the Park’s management has been determined, as have its priority areas: electronics, bio-medicine, fine chemistry and machine building. Several framework agreements have already been signed regarding potential residents.
The Head of State is eager to see an objective evaluation and a clear-cut action plan, aiming to accelerate the Park’s construction. He remarks that the major project is of special importance, being a landmark of strategic co-operation with China and an important engine in driving forward the economy.
According to the President, the project opens up prospects for assimilating high technologies as well as cutting-edge international practices in doing business, management, construction, and the management of industrial enterprises. The amount of work involved, as well as the capital investments required, is huge. A new town is being created near Minsk to serve the site: an independent territorial and economic unit housing innovative, export-oriented enterprises and offering comfortable accommodation and associated facilities.
The President underlines that the relevant decree grants preferential taxation terms, helping enterprises gain a competitive edge within the Customs Union and the European Union. He explains, “A special public-private mechanism to manage the Park has been created, and the relevant organisational structures have been set up.” He remains dissatisfied with the rate of progress in the Park’s construction and believes this shows a lack of effort on the part of the government and those responsible: he cites the eight months spent developing and authorising the general layout of the Park. In addition, Mr. Lukashenko is unhappy that some issues of financing continue unresolved.
“We’ve agreed that the Park will not be a conglomerate of enterprises already existing in Belarus, simply making commodities,” Mr. Lukashenko underlines. “Why do we need a new tractor or truck factory? We shouldn’t repeat enterprises that already exist in Belarus. We’ve agreed that, if we are to set up manufacturing enterprises in Belarus — at the centre of Europe — then they should be cutting-edge. Promising enterprises and internationally recognised brands should be represented.”
The President has instructed the Prime Minister to monitor these issues and to report the real state of affairs: in particular, the number of brands to be hosted by the Park. Mr. Lukashenko has also raised the issue of an information campaign to attract residents to the Park, saying, “The Foreign Ministry has sent 1,500 booklets to embassies and accomplishment reports have been filed. Now, they are just waiting… but what for?”
Mr. Lukashenko has seen a new draft decree concerning the Park and comments, “I’m not against the idea of discussing the decree but I’m afraid it may replicate the previous decree [on establishing the Park] — as signed already.” He is curious as to why the new document is necessary and wishes to see an objective evaluation of the situation, in addition to proposals on ways to accelerate the Park’s construction. He notes, “If the hotheads who suggested the Park initially have cooled off and believe Belarus no longer needs it, be brave and tell me so. We don’t need another free economic zone for its own sake; we need cutting-edge enterprises and factories making products for worldwide sale. We need the most advanced enterprises. We don’t even need jobs — as we often remark upon. All our Belarusians are employed; in fact, we lack enough labour.”
The President wishes to see more high-performance jobs offered and believes that all conditions exist to create such enterprises in Belarus. “We have the most important elements: people and national stability (as many states lack). Investors say they are on the lookout for safe havens in which to invest their money: for enterprises working calmly and making products which are in demand,” stresses Mr. Lukashenko.