By Vladimir Vasiliev
Santa-Bremor company — recently visited by the President — has been an example of successful business for many years. On being asked how Santa-Bremor feels in the present economic situation, the company’s owner — Alexander Moshensky — said openly, “Yes, we have losses. However, we are working confidently, having raw materials and foreign currency.” He added that, to date, the company has diversified its sales markets, now exporting to Russia, Ukraine, the EU, the USA, Canada, Israel and, even, Australia — in addition to Belarus. Its foreign currency revenue is steady, helped by the diversification of its portfolio.
Apart from processing fish, Santa-Bremor has invested in milk processing, being the major shareholder of Savushkin Product JSC. Mr. Moshensky considers the milk business to be very promising. Having its own milk supplies, exports of milk products can earn foreign currency and bring considerable profit.
Mr. Moshensky believes that the present financial crisis will inspire Belarusian enterprises not only to cut costs but to redirect their energy towards exports. Mr. Lukashenko stressed the same point, noting that the state is keen to maximise import substitution and increase sales abroad. He plans to render all possible assistance to businesses earning foreign currency and creating well paid jobs. Meanwhile, he believes this help should be primarily rendered to national businesses. The state is ready to offer businessmen like Mr. Moshensky favourable tax and tariff regimes, helping them to develop, creating new jobs and new competitive facilities outside of free economic zones countrywide (Santa-Bremor is a Brest FEZ resident).
The President noted that, if a business is successful and socially responsible, officials should not impede it; rather they should help it grow and develop. Savushkin Product is a bright example, being a well-known brand — both domestically and abroad. It boasts its own well-developed logistics and commodity distribution network. Why shouldn’t the company acquire new processing facilities and gain additional raw materials? Scattered milk assets could be consolidated under a single powerful brand. The President fully supports the idea of establishing a national milk company and is keen to see organisational issues settled by late 2011; ‘this should be profitable both to the state and the company’.
During his trip, Mr. Lukashenko also visited the Brest Waste Processing Plant (making bio-gas from solid communal waste). According to the President, such modern facilities should be constructed in all regions of the country.
Mr. Lukashenko answered journalists’ questions.
On shared memory
Dmitry Medvedev was invited to attend the events at Brest Fortress dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. His presence would have demonstrated to Belarusians and Russians that ‘we share a common memory and will always be together’. “I don’t know why he hasn’t come. You should ask him,” said Mr. Lukashenko, adding that, in the past, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, accepted such invitations.
[It should be mentioned here that the first meeting between presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev took place in 2008, at Brest Fortress. It’s rather puzzling as to why Mr. Medvedev failed to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations of the start of the war — editor].
On new projects
Speaking of direct foreign investments being a problem in Belarus, the President noted that he hopes to see a significant inflow of capital by later in the year. “We are now constructing a second potash facility — worth almost $2bn. If the Government suffers on owning just one percent [of the planned annual inflow of direct foreign investments — editor], then it should more quickly agree with investors and sign an investment project. If all goes well regarding certain issues, we’ll start building a third potash facility, costing another $2bn,” added Mr. Lukashenko.
On EU sanctions
“These are small bites. They never give any benefit — not to us or anyone else,” the President commented, speaking of EU sanctions against three Belarusian companies. “However, if we are economically affected, we’ll find a way to respond. Quite a few foreign companies work here, owning property; we can strike at them painfully,” he warned, stressing that he has no personal desire to escalate conflict.
The President also noted that he has ordered his lawyers to prepare claims to international courts regarding the legality of EU sanctions. “They should explain. They have no objective explanations,” he said.