Top goals and priorities of tomorrow
Naturally, major economic documents must be agreed in advance. It seems unbelievable that, at one stage, socio-economic and monetary-credit policy were prepared on the eve of the New Year, alongside the budget. It can take many months to prepare such key matters of state, as everyone appreciates. Recently, the President attended a meeting of the Government, to hear reports on the economic achievements of January-September 2012. A preliminary assessment of the results was voiced, with plans for 2013 discussed.
By Dmitry Krymov
The President immediately called upon those present to demonstrate adherence to principles, saying, “All plans must be based in reality.” The major aim is to fulfil the five-year plan. Mr. Lukashenko stressed, “We need to achieve good dynamics of growth, to promote citizens’ wellbeing — as we defined earlier. This is the ultimate goal and the core of further development, for the private sector and the social sphere.”
The President highlighted the present stability of macroeconomic figures. Industrial output has grown by almost 109 percent (exceeding 107 percent in rural areas) while Belarus’ budget is buoyant, with gold and currency reserves of over $8bn. The average salary is Br4m per month (just over $470). Mr. Lukashenko is convinced, “By late 2012, we should see an average salary of $500, with citizens’ real incomes growing by 17.5 percent; in real terms, salaries will increase by 21.5 percent.” Of course, such growth is reliant upon labour efficiency — a key principle. “We must give people the chance to earn money,” stressed the President. The idea became a focus of the meeting.
However, these pleasing results are no cause for relaxation, as the President emphasised, “Speaking honestly, these results aren’t satisfactory alone, since a range of problems continue to exist, which are significantly hampering the country’s dynamic development. Four out of 12 most important aspects of the 2012 forecast are yet to be realised — including GDP. We are lagging behind by 2-2.5 percent.
Mr. Lukashenko also stressed that the public remain concerned by rising prices and stagnation of export growth regarding some of the most important products; many branches have full warehouses. Economic calculations need attention, including with our closest partners — as Russian companies remain our major debtors. The President noted, “I’d like to warn each member of the Government and each Governor that the goals for this year and next must be met. Total mobilisation of staff needs to be introduced at all levels to ensure the fulfilment of goals.”
The Government has its work cut out and flexibility will prove vital. The President asserted, “Russia’s joining of the WTO will bring tough competition to the Single Economic Space. European and American producers, as well as Asian companies, are now mastering the markets of Kazakhstan and Russia. The global economy is becoming more complicated.”
Speculating on how to counteract these processes, Mr. Lukashenko noted that, by late 2012, all organisational issues regarding companies’ modernisation should have been completed, with directors making concrete plans for their firms’ development. Rather than focusing on GDP, by 2015, the goal is for each employee to generate revenue of at least $60,000. Really, the plans speak for themselves.
Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich also delivered a speech, indicating the Government’s goals and the instruments to be used in achieving them. Evidently, the state is moving steadily away from direct financial support for companies, with commercial banking loans being encouraged. Partial state subsidy is still possible, with funding levels already envisaged. Meanwhile, up to 20 percent of state companies’ profits are to be used in setting up new production facilities.
The major feature of the plan is for export revenue to drive forward further modernisation; as the President stressed, sales abroad are a major priority.
Mr. Myasnikovich noted his desire to see funding extended for the purchase of equipment for dairy farms (using seven year leasing) but the President refused, believing such projects to be an unwise use of money. Overall, the Government’s forecast appears to be balanced, as is the budget (as reported by Finance Minister Andrey Kharkovets) and the major avenues of monetary and credit policy (voiced by the Chair of the National Bank’s Board, Nadezhda Yermakova).
Listening to those delivering speeches, the President made notes. It was stated that some problems remain in the system of privileged loan terms for accommodation, with some citizens gaining flats inappropriately. Mr. Lukashenko ordered that all lists be checked by April, to bring everything into order. After the PM complained of a gap between the pace of growth of salaries and labour efficiency, the President immediately noted, “Have you paid salaries which have not been earned? Income must be earned!”
The distribution of excess funds collected by regional budgets also inspired discussion, with the chairs of regional executive committees noting displeasure in the requirement of having to agree each Rouble with the Government. The President commented that priority avenues for financing should be defined, with heads of regions being independent within these limits.
Another topic was tackled during the meeting: one which always comes to the fore when money is discussed (even when no evident reasons exist). Mr. Lukashenko initiated it to perhaps stave off wild speculation. “There is a rumour — begun by who knows — that devaluation and denomination are planned. As you see, the draft budget envisages no such move. Explain this to people! We won’t apply any devaluation as there is no need for it at present. No such move is planned,” he said, addressing everyone plainly. “I forbid you from complaining about the difficulty of tasks! Otherwise, nothing will be achieved but talk!”
Any working issues can be discussed, of course, but officials are recommended by the President to immediately propose that people find better solutions to problems if they begin to complain about the difficulty of the tasks before them. Is this tough or simply just!