Address of the President to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly
Address of the President to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly (abridged)
The Address to the nation and the parliament emphasizes the problems that have to be resolved this year, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in the Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly.
“I understand that today’s talk in the Oval Hall will be analyzed from every angle, there will be a lot of discussions in mass media, in homes, at enterprises… Anticipating all of that, I would like to ask you to bear in mind that this year is very intense for us and the Address will be peculiar. It will be up-to-date and certainly will take into account all the measures that will be implemented during the year,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that events relating to the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War will be seriously analyzed soon. “There are too many speculations, attempts to rewrite the history, put the blame for that war on us. The accusations come close to claiming we were the reason for it. A lot will be said about that in the future,” the President noted.
About domestic and foreign policy
In the rapidly changing situation Belarus remains an island of peace, calm and order, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said.
“We must admit that the situation in the world is changing much faster than we could imagine. Who could have thought that bombs and shells would explode in neighboring Ukraine? Who could have thought that the danger of a big war could emerge in Europe and the degree of tension between superpowers would increase to the level of the cold war? Today no one is hiding this, including these superpowers themselves,” the head of state noted.
“Belarus remains an island of peace, calm and order and this is our achievement,” he emphasized.
Alexander noted with regret that “certain people have forgotten the lessons of the Great Patriotic War.” The 70th anniversary of victory in this war will be celebrated in a few days. “Anybody could forget these lessons, but for Belarusians. That war claimed millions of lives of our people, therefore 70 years later we still know and remember that nothing is more precious than peace,” the President noted.
The policy of honest and sincere conversations between the government and the people will not be abandoned in Belarus, the head of state said.
“We have always followed the way of direct and honest conversations between the government and the people. We will not abandon the rule in the future,” the head of state stressed.
Alexander Lukashenko reminded that the situation on the country’s currency market had calmed down a short while before. However, the economy growth rate has dropped, many enterprises have excessive stock in storage that they cannot sell.
According to the President, topical issues are more and more often discussed by mass media and the society. In particular, there are concerns why the government’s promises to deliver a certain level of the average salary have failed, why the development of the production sector is slow despite the considerable government aid and constant attention at all levels of the government. “But most importantly, people are waiting for an answer to the key question: what will happen next? What will happen to the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble and the prices? What will happen to jobs at state-run enterprises and in the private sector? What new things the government can offer in response to the obvious crisis phenomena in our economy and the economy of our neighbors?” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko admitted that these are complicated questions, which are often unpleasant. “The easiest way would be to forget about them and pretend that nothing is happening. But a truly strong policy is always based on sincerity. The honest recognition of the problem is half the solution,” the Belarusian leader believes.
The President believes that the number of people employed in Belarusian government agencies is excessive.
The Belarusian leader asked the parliament to submit the final drafts of the decisions on optimizing the state machine and the status of civil servants soon. He noted that the number of personnel employed by Belarusian government agencies is small in comparison with post-Soviet countries and other countries. “But the numbers are still excessive for us. With our discipline and responsibility (you can criticize them for some things) the numbers are still excessive. Define how many civil servants we really need, reduce the numbers by another 10%. Then we will be able to give decent salaries as well as the status of civil servants to those who stay,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko also noted that he had already heard revolutionary promises regarding the optimization of the state machine. “I don’t see anything revolutionary even in individual regions. Don’t make excuses. I want your proposals,” he said.
“In order to create the foundation for steady social and economic development of the country in the next five years the renewal of the state machine and the improvement of the management of enterprises should be systemic,” the Belarusian leader said.
“It is necessary for the civil service to employ the best professionals. Only those with modern education, people who know and understand the global world, have experience of working on foreign markets should be employed,” the head of state said.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, countries and corporations fight for professionals in the modern world. “If we fail to enable proper conditions for the work of managers, the best ones will not come to work for us. We cannot afford losing more professionals, otherwise, we will lose to other countries,” the head of state said.
According to the President, problems should be discussed in the parliament instead of streets.
“The Belarus parliament is the key platform for a dialogue. Representatives of different population strata can use the platform to discuss issues of vital importance for the country,” said the President.
Addressing the heads of both chambers of the parliament, Alexander Lukashenko said he would like the parliament to invite people with different opinions. “Discuss problems, prepare solutions, submit proposals. I am always ready to hear you out,” noted the head of state. The President added that on the whole the parliament should more actively work with government agencies, public associations, and the business community.
Alexander Lukashenko said he believes that Belarus had accumulated quite a lot of experience of parliamentary democracy that should be used, too. “In the last few years members of the parliament made a considerable contribution to the development of international cooperation and international legislation, stronger integration in the ex-USSR. Representatives of our country take part in sessions of interstate agencies. MPs often go on business trips. I would like these trips to produce real results,” stated Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus will never pursue a frenzied nationalistic policy, Alexander Lukashenko said in his Address to the nation and parliament.
"Many in Belarus are intermarried and are interrelated with the Russians, Poles, Jews, and other ethnicities. We never paid any attention to this and never will. We are under-populated. We need to have at least 20 million people. Why will we pursue a frenzied nationalistic policy? To drive away people who were born here or whose parents were born here? This is nonsense of the highest order!” Alexander Lukashenko said.
He noted that recently there has been a lot of talk about the idea of the "Russian world". “With regard to this idea I would like to say the following: Belarus was the first post-Soviet state to assign the Russian language the official language status along with Belarusian. We appreciate the great Russian culture and do not separate it from ours. We are part of this culture. Many Russians have contributed a lot to the Belarusian culture. Belarusians have also contributed to the Russian culture. It is hard to break this all up. Russians in Belarus are full citizens unlike many former Soviet republics. No one is offended or harassed on national or religious grounds in Belarus,” the President said.
Alexander Lukashenko said that he raised this issue because “not only liberals in Russia but even some people in the Russian government got this idea that Belarus is tilting towards the West.” “Throw this idea out of your head, dear Russians. We are your brothers, we have always been together. But let us have our own views and impressions of the world. We do not always publicly express them. We agreed with the President of Russia on the non-publicity of our relations and we strictly adhere to this principle. If Vladimir Vladimirovich has a point or remark, he conveys it to me. We discuss the problems in a friendly manner. Belarus can have its own attitude and its own point of view, including on Ukraine. Is our role and position bad? After all, if I acted in the manner I was recommended after Crimea’s joining Russia, would Minsk become the venue for talks? Never,” he said.
"Belarus is a sovereign independent state. Of course, we have close bonds with the Russian people. We are brothers. But we want to live in our own apartment in a high-rise building. If someone thinks (not only in Russia but also in other places) that we should be denied this, then I can say this will never happen. We are an independent state who does not create problems and never will," the President added.
The head of state noted that Belarus closely coordinates its foreign policy with Russia. "Belarus and Russia have centuries-old history, common values and mentality. Together we defended our homeland from the fascist enslavement and achieved the great victory. We are building together our future, by cooperating and strengthening our sovereign states,” he said.
Belarus holds a consistent peacekeeping position, the Belarusian President said.
That is why Belarus became the most appropriate venue for the talks on Ukraine. "Activity on the Ukraine peaceful settlement helps Belarus strengthen its international positions. But, most importantly, Americans, and Europeans recognized (I met with them many times, so did our Minister of Foreign Affairs) that Belarus performs one of the most important functions of ensuring security in the region. It is true,” the head of state stressed.
"It is essential for us to strengthen our partners' awareness that predictable and stable Belarus is of value to the whole world," the President said.
Belarus is against any kinds of sanctions and restrictions in international cooperation, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“We are always ready to lend a helping hand to the neighbor in a difficult situation. In return we expect respect devoid of legal nihilism and sanction pressure from our partners,” the head of state stressed.
In his words, Belarus is a reliable link between the East and the West. “Belarus’ multipronged foreign policy aimed at developing mutually beneficial relations with different countries testifies to the fact. Belarus’ strategic goal is to provide an optimal balance of its interests between the different centers of power, build up equal cooperation with the leading players in the international arena,” the President said.
It is also important that the development of every vector in the Belarusian foreign policy complements the relations with other key partners, the head of state added.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko believes that the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union are well-positioned to establish closer ties.
“Despite the ongoing escalation of the geopolitical situation, I believe that our idea of the integration of integrations is still relevant and promising. We will eventually succeed in bridging the gap between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union and in establishing Big Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Belarus’ presidency in the EEU will contribute to the materialization of this idea,” the Belarusian head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that the establishment of an organization promoting full-fledged regional economic integration and having international legal capacity can help advance cooperation with the global economic associations to a brand new level. “Our common task is to prevent new dividing lines in Europe and to use the potential of constructive cooperation in the interests of our peoples,” he added.
Belarus will always stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia, the head of state said..
“Both the European Union and the USA understand me when I tell them that if anything happens, Belarus will stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia. It is our ally. Let me quote you an example: do you remember bombing in Iraq? It was claimed that nuclear weapons had been found and Saddam Hussein was hanged. The entire world knew it was unjust, that the United States of America did the wrong thing. But entire Europe and NATO countries backed America because they were allies. Everyone must be told that we have been together with Russia and will always be. No idle talks about Crimea, deviations and adjustments in Belarus’ policy can be allowed,” stressed the head of state.
The President remarked that there are forces in Russia that would very much like to limit the influence of the Belarusian development model and the influence of Alexander Lukashenko on processes going on in the Russian Federation. “There are many people like that and they are starting to put pressure on us everywhere. Don’t pay attention to them, it will pass. Some are unhappy that Lukashenko will not be present during the parade in Moscow on 9 May. They claim that the move has been prompted by considerations concerning the presidential election. What nonsense! We and the Russian leadership have agreed that there are only two countries in the world that hold sacred the Great Victory. We have agreed that since Belarus is going to arrange its own parade and festivities, the president has to be with his nation in the country on 9 May. Nobody can replace him in this regard, the commander-in-chief has to review the troops. We will be in Moscow on 8 May and will properly celebrate the Victory anniversary,” added Alexander Lukashenko.
“Russia has been and will be our key strategic partner. Cooperation with Russia advances consistently and dynamically. Belarusian-Russian relations within the framework of the Union State of Belarus and Russia are at a very high quality level today, the level we have not reached in any other integration association. The creation of joint competitive products by combining the industrial, financial, and marketing potential will make us stronger on international markets and will allow us to decently compete with third countries. Russia is ready for it,” said the President.
Alexander Lukashenko also remarked that efforts to further bolster Belarus’ interaction with regions of Russia, the enhancement of existing ties with them is an inalienable part of the strategy. It is possible to make this cooperation even more successful by implementing joint projects to create high-tech enterprises, expanding manufacturing cooperation in the production sector, transport, civil engineering, and agriculture, added the head of state.
We count on the political will of the United States in removing the problems which accumulated in relations with Belarus, the President said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that the purposeful work on finding the common ground with the United States through projects in economy has already started to bring first tangible results.
"We have identified further concrete steps to increase the level of confidence in bilateral relations,” the Belarusian head of state said.
According to the Belarusian leader, the path towards the normalization of relations with the United States is through equal cooperation. "I am glad that the United States has finally realized this too,” Alexander Lukashenko said. "We hope that the United States will also proceed from this and will show greater determination and political will to remove the accumulated problems," the Belarusian President said.
Belarus is proud of its close cooperation with such influential countries as Russia, China, and India and its improving relations with the European Union, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“We are proud that we have good relations with such giants as Russia, China, and India and are happy that our relations with the EU are improving,” the Belarusian leader said.
Alexander Lukashenko was pleased to note that Belarus has developed all-round strategic cooperation with the People’s Republic of China. “We have strong and long-standing relations based on trust. In our bilateral cooperation, we have moved from trade to large-scale investment projects,” the President noted. The Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park will become the platform for the development of high-tech solutions. A direct flight connection between Belarus and China will be established in May 2015.
Alexander Lukashenko expressed confidence that the upcoming visit of China President Xi Jinping to Belarus will give a new impetus to the all-round cooperation between the two states.
Belarus will adopt important economic decisions by the end of the year in order to secure new factors for the country’s economic growth, Alexander Lukashenko said in the Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that the reasons for the current difficult economic situation in the country are evident. These are the sanctions against Belarus’ main trading partner, a drop in oil prices, the Russian ruble devaluation and the Russian market contraction. These all led to a sharp decrease in the exports to Belarus’ key markets of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and the whole post-Soviet space.
“We live in a global world and our economy is open. The neighbors’ problems immediately become our problems. It is an objective side of these crisis developments,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko emphasized that the world economy has radically changed over the past 20 years and the industrial economy is gradually substituted by the economy of knowledge and services. “We are facing a similar issue. We should acknowledge that we are lagging behind,” the head of state noted.
The President believes that there is one more reason for the current problems, i.e. the quality and labor productivity which are not always competitive enough.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, it is only a schematic picture of the current situation. However, in his words, it is very important since the clear understanding of the roots of the problems can help find solutions faster.
“When answering the people’s most sensitive questions, saying that we would keep the ruble exchange rate and prices under control and preserve jobs is not enough. A much more important thing is to show how we will do it,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
According to the President, one cannot manage sectors of economy without leaving the office.
“I want to emphasize that if somebody in the government wants to perform his duties sitting in his office watching the square, the clean area surrounding the House of Government, this is not the right approach. It is true that in general the government is responsible for the economy, but the economy is done first of all at the enterprises and the government should remember this,” Alexander Lukashenko stressed.
He believes that the government should be a serious regulator developing the strategy and controlling its implementation, but at the same time it should monitor the work of the enterprises every day. “Every minister, every member of the government, every deputy minister and the prime minister should have a clear idea of what processes the enterprise is running through, should solve real problems, and probably hold the director accountable for the issues that have not been settled,” the President said. However, this does not mean that the government will interfere in the work of the directors and administration of the enterprises.
There is a need to improve the management of state assets and businesses, Alexander Lukashenko said.
"Competitiveness of enterprises depends on the efficiency of their management. If we do not improve the system of management of state assets and enterprises, we will continue to lose the struggle for markets,” Alexander Lukashenko noted. According to him, the government needs to submit a package of normative documents on the division of the functions of the state as regulator and as owner, and also on the system of enterprise management in the light of the global experience.
The President said that everyone must do their job and achieve the result: the government should manage the economy as a whole, the ministers should be in control of industries, governors of regions and directors of enterprises. The ministries must be dealing with industry-specific regulation: improve legislation, develop technological standards, provide an enabling business environment as well as equal rights for all forms of ownership. Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the main person responsible for the enterprise is its director.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has instructed the government to restructure debt-making enterprises with the help of investors.
"The bailout of companies that are no longer needed by the market and the economy, the companies that have grown irrelevant and cannot go on will be the outright waste of resources if we invest money there trying to save them. The shutdown of a backward enterprise is not a tragedy, it makes absolute sense,” Alexander Lukashenko said. In his words, an enterprise becomes useless not only because of poor management or a negligent team, but also because a certain product can become irrelevant, or the market can shrink or a new, more promising business line can emerge. “In this case, the one who is the first to shut down a dead-end business and explore and start a new business line will be on top,” the President stated.
It is important to create the conditions to enable a new, more promising company with new jobs and higher salaries to replace the company that will be shut down.
The President noted that a prompt response to the changing environment is needed to win the competition. In this regard, the head of state instructed the government to set about restructuring debt-making companies with the help of investors.
In 2016 Belarus will introduce a tax moratorium.
"Next year we are introducing a moratorium on the increase in the number and rates of taxes. We will also remove the excessive control over the economy, and will dramatically reduce the number of inspections with duplicating functions. We need to get rid of the situation when law enforcement and regulatory authorities watch every step of a manager of an enterprise and actually undertake the management of the enterprise without bearing the liability for its operation,” said Alexander Lukashenko. According to him, it is necessary to shift control from the current activity of the enterprise to the end results: profits and profitability.
The President instructed the Government, President Administration, and the State Secretariat of the Security Council to draft specific regulations in order to solve this problem once and for all.
The reduction of inflation in Belarus is a priority, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Macroeconomic stability is a pillar of normal business. The reduction of inflation is a priority task for us. The population is concerned about the price growth,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
In his words, it is essential to cut the prime cost of products and services, reduce expenses and maintain the existing level of wellbeing of people to stabilize prices. “It means that enterprises will have to cut expenses not by reducing the salaries of workers which are not paid on time at a number of companies today,” the President said.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, high inflation shows that the funds are not used efficiently. “Money should bring profit. Then the interest rates will be low and loans will be affordable,” the head of state emphasized.
The President instructed the government and the National Bank to work out a concrete anti-inflation program.
It is necessary to prevent unjustified price rise, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Prices are growing all the time. The authorities say that people should pay more for utilities services; they say that the prices for foodstuffs are too low, the energy sector is poor; that we need to increase prices and revenues of oil refineries which are in the process of modernization. They say that salaries are too low. It must be stopped,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President said that virtually all prices are controlled by the state. It became obvious in late 2014 – early 2015. “We took prices under control. When see saw that there is no need to impose excessive pressure, we liberalized prices in certain fields,” Alexander Lukashenko explained. As an example, he mentioned the prices for pork which have fallen recently.
“Prices depend on us. We must understand that we should not increase salaries if we cannot do it. No one asks us to raise salaries. But do not increase prices in the fields where you can keep them under control. These include the utilities sector, heat and electricity,” the President stressed. In his words, this approach shall be used at least till the end of the year.
It is essential to make necessary decisions regarding the new mechanism of state support, the head of state noted.
“In the budget process it is needed to start allocating funds using the targeted program method. As economists say, this is result-oriented budgeting,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
According to the President, state support should be provided on the competitive basis only, solely for the implementation of state programs, with an equal access to resources for all organizations of all forms of ownership.
The head of state urged to use budget funds efficiently. “The issue is simple – do not ask for more money, use the funds you have rationally. All claims about the lack of floating assets, investments should be stopped. There is money in the economy. But many companies do not allow the money to work by accumulating the backlogs of inventory, having unfinished construction projects, increasing accounts receivable. You should look for financial resources there,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
As an example, the President mentioned the situation when the government asked him to provide Br100 billion to MAZ. “I asked them why we should invest in this enterprise. Don’t other companies have problems? Why should we invest Br 100 billion in MAZ despite we are speaking about the equal approach for all,” the Belarusian leader said.
The head of state emphasized that the companies should, first of all, be focused on the sale of products, signing of agreements and reduction of the backlogs of inventory. “We will help. But we need contracts, not promises,” he stated. Speaking about MAZ, the President emphasized: “We must do our best not to lose this company. It is an image-making enterprise for the country.”
The competitive climate in the Belarusian economy is favorable, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Why do we always lament and complain? Do we have a war or something? Do we buy resources at the highest price? I do not want to provide calculations on how much we save on the natural gas due to a drop in oil prices. We have a normal situation and normal conditions. We should pull ourselves together and address the issues we have today,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The price increase stems from the lack of competition, the Belarusian leader remarked.
“We should admit that the price increase is the result of poor competition. The government should promote fair competition. Unfortunately, our antimonopoly service is weak and lacks initiative. We should think of how to improve its work,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
“It has been said that it is necessary to enhance our antimonopoly service. All right, let’s do it. But if you think that this means that there will be 500 employees instead of 100 who will solve the problem, you are mistaken. We need to work out a system,” the President stressed. In his words, the antimonopoly service should coordinate and regulate the processes and give advice without interfering in the work of heads of oblast executive committees and other officials.
Besides, Alexander Lukashenko gave the order to develop a new tariff policy with regard to natural monopolies in such fields as energy engineering, railway services, aviation, and housing and utilities.
We need to look into the possibility of floating the shares of Belarus’ major companies on the world stock exchanges, the President said.
“We should use every segment of the financial market, i.e. the insurance sector, the securities market, investment funds, micro financial and leasing organizations, the OTC market Forex and so on. The state should control the segment, and the National Bank should be its chief regulator. We should get integrated into the global financial market. Companies and banks should make their way to international financial markets and attract resources for development. We should also consider the possibility of floating the shares of the country’s major companies on the world exchanges,” the head of state said.
In his words, capital amnesty is vital in this respect. “Today all the countries compete for financial flows. The traditional financial centers do their best to keep their influence and prevent new centers attractive for capital from emerging. It is often done under the guise of the fight against the shadow financial sector. As a matter of fact everyone is imposed the universal rules that benefit, first of all, a limited number of countries. Competition between the states is gradually eliminated. Conditions are created for the interference with the domestic affairs of other states under color of securing transparency of financial flows,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The head of state noted that in this respect it is necessary to thoroughly analyze how the international agreements on financial monitoring meet the country’s national interests. “You see what complicated processes are there in the relations between Russia and the West. Russia is working on a large-scale amnesty of capital. In fact they are trying to return at least part of capital that has left the country,” the President said.
Promising industrial enterprises in Belarus can count on targeted support.
“We use a case-by-case approach. If we see that a company is doing its best, but cannot handle objective difficulties, we will lend a hand,” the head of state said. Alexander Lukashenko noted that industrial enterprises should not expect the government to repay their loans instead of them. “This has never happened and cannot happen,” the President added.
Belarus’ Premier Andrei Kobyakov noted that the restructuring of debts on earlier loans is meant to make it easier for industrial enterprises to service their debts. “At the same time, it is imperative that these enterprises service their debts,” he underlined.
Belarus should be made attractive to wealthy people from around the world, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said.
"We need to think over how to make Belarus attractive to wealthy people from around the world. I instruct the Government, the Parliament, and the National Bank to undertake an in-depth analysis of global developments in this area, and to take stock of the legislation that we have,” he said.
The President also instructed to submit a package of systemic proposals on the development and effective functioning of the financial market and its regulator. "We need to think what could be done to draw capital out of shade and into our economy and to make Belarus a major regional financial center,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
It is necessary to step up efforts meant to attract private investments into the agriculture.
“We will have to step up efforts meant to attract private investments to the agriculture. The government should encourage investors using individualized approaches while selling agricultural enterprises,” said the Belarusian leader. Alexander Lukashenko remarked that the introduction of state-of-the-art research products and cutting-edge practices was as important.
The President admitted that Belarus has done a lot in the last few years to improve the state of affairs in the agriculture. “We fully satisfy the domestic demand for food. The agriculture’s export potential has increased by a lot. It is now one of the main sources of foreign currency,” he remarked. Belarus is the world’s third largest exporter of butter, one of the world’s top ten exporters of milk. Belarus is in the lead in cheese export. Apart from that, Belarus accounts for about 16% of the world’s flax plantations.
“Belarus is virtually self-reliant in food security. Import is less than 10% of the total consumption, with food exported to 50 countries across the globe. Nevertheless, the Belarusian agriculture needs new, more effective development methods for the future,” the head of state was convinced. In his opinion, self-sufficiency should be the key principle today.
The President remarked that mechanisms like competition and the recoupment of projects, equal access to loans and other resources as well as responsibility for the implementation and achievement of targeted goals should play an important role in view of the reduced state support.
Mortgage lending shall be included in the housing construction support mechanism, Lukashenko said.
“Mortgage lending, a system of housing construction savings, housing rent shall be included in the existing state support mechanism,” the head of state said.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the National Bank and the Belarusian government should work out efficient credit and financial instruments to ensure access to these programs for the middle class which is shaping in the Belarusian society.
It is necessary to accelerate the informatization of the national economy.
“All the modern management mechanisms that our competitors use should be introduced in Belarus. Today the informatization of the economy should be accelerated. Moreover, we have the capability to do that,” noted Alexander Lukashenko. In his words, modern information technologies are not just a branch of the economy but one of the key levers to manage the economy and the society as a whole.
The President stated that the IT industry has been developing fast in Belarus recently and the country has seriously advanced in international rankings that measure the development of information and communication technologies. “As far as this indicator is concerned, we are already ahead of all the post-Soviet countries. Only systemic nature of the informatization effort will secure its further success,” the head of state was convinced.
Belarus should focus on expanding the export basket with high-tech products.
“It is necessary to focus on expanding the export basket with high-technology products and services that sell well,” said the head of state. He was convinced that it is necessary to change the geography of export and its structure. “At present raw materials – potash fertilizers, crude oil and oil products, ferrous metals, timber — constitute a considerable part of Belarusian export. The crash of at least one of the markets negatively affects our entire economy,” he explained.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the country should change the approaches used to sell Belarus-made products. “It is necessary to find markets first and then make products. We are doing it contrariwise. Every head of an enterprise has to understand that marketing, advertising, product promotion are as important as manufacturing, quality, prices, and the prime cost,” stated the Belarusian leader.
Alexander Lukashenko admitted that it is difficult to penetrate new markets, find partners, and establish long-term relations. In his opinion, the falling sales in Russia and Ukraine should be compensated for by larger sales in other countries. At the same time Belarus should work as hard to promote products to traditional markets. “In Russia, for instance, it is necessary to reach every region, use every opportunity. The same applies to post-Soviet space,” the head of state was convinced.
Alexander Lukashenko pointed out that earning foreign currency for the country should be the key goal and the indicator to measure the performance of the management of enterprises. “We cannot forget that export is the main source of foreign currency and the guarantee of the stability of the Belarusian ruble,” stressed the President.
Belarusian companies should come up with a clear strategy for solidifying their positions on the Asian market and for advancing to the markets of Latin America and Africa.
Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the development of mutually beneficial cooperation with countries of Asia, Latin America, Africa, the establishment of the “far arc” of Belarus’ foreign policy are a priority. “Cooperation with countries in these regions will allow us to find additional footholds that will make our foreign political and foreign economic positions more stable,” said the Belarusian leader.
According to the head of state, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia are particularly important for Belarus primarily as large and rapidly expanding markets for Belarus-made products and services and as promising investors for the Belarusian economy. “This is why key Belarusian enterprises need a clear strategy for solidifying their stance on the Asian market. The strategy should provide for setting up joint manufacturing enterprises in countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and India,” believes the Belarus President.
Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to Belarus’ continued cooperation with Venezuela and Cuba, the good potential for the development of relations with Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. In his words, Belarusian products are needed and sell well in these countries. Despite the complications and difficulties involved in establishing manufacturing cooperation ties with Latin America it is important to promote Belarusian economic interests in the western hemisphere, said Alexander Lukashenko.
“It is time to implement major investment projects with countries of the Arab Peninsula. The conditions are as favorable as ever. The relevant agreement has been reached with the leadership of the United Arab Emirates. Qatar is ready for stepping up investment cooperation and invests in Belarus. Oman and Saudi Arabia are promising partners,” noted the Belarusian head of state.
The enhancement of ties and mutually equal cooperation with international organizations, regional associations, unions and individual countries is as important. “It is necessary to focus on attracting loans, credits, technical aid and other kinds of aid for the sake of addressing topical problems of our economic development,” said the Belarus President.
Special attention should be given to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko said in the Address.
Alexander Lukashenko emphasized that the requirements for setting up, managing, and closing a business should be simple and easy to understand not only on paper but also in practice. “The government together with entrepreneurs should review the whole chain, from setting up a business to closing it. Take a reasonable look at this process and significantly reduce the number of documents, statistical reports drawn up at all levels and at all stages. Pay special attention to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. They are the basis for the prosperity of any economy and the stability of any state,” the President noted.
Belarus plans to substantially reduce the tax breaks for enterprises.
"We will definitely cut the preferences and support for enterprises. To what extent we will do it, time will show. The MPs and the Government need to determine which tax preferences we will keep,” said Alexander Lukashenko. He stressed that the state is not going to reduce the existing social benefits. The state has supported and will support people who need assistance.
The head of state noted that the benefits can be granted for lucrative investment projects. "The People's Republic of China has loaned us a total of $15 billion. But today we apply a tough approach to the selection of those who can use the money. We cannot utilize these loans in full because we have difficulty finding projects that will pay off. If there is a good project, we will provide preferences. But this will be done on an individualized basis,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
The President urged a carefully approach to every project proposed by a foreign investor. "We have an overreach here: every time a foreign investor wants to build an enterprise, we are happy to oblige. When we begin to study his proposal, it turns out he wants a lot of preferences for ten or more years. When we had a high unemployment, when we needed jobs, we would agree to this without thinking much. But now we have to think about what a particular project will give us,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.
The head of state said that Belarus must have equal conditions for both domestic and foreign investors in order to promote healthy competition.
About social sector
A strong family with at least three kids should become the social ideal, the President of the Republic of Belarus said in the Address to the nation and parliament.
The President remarked that it is necessary to reinforce the positive demographic processes in Belarus. “If you remember literally ten years ago analysts of all kinds, of all countries, including Belarusian analysts, were saying that the Belarus population will drop to 8.3-8.5 million by 2015. We are now over 9.5 million people,” said the head of state. If the trend continues, the country’s population may reach 10 million.
The President attributed the results to the development of the healthcare system. Apart from that, the size of family allowance has been considerably raised in Belarus. Equal conditions for all kinds of families have been enabled, their support is increased with the birth of every consequent child. It will remain a national priority, assured the head of state. The presidential decree on introducing family capital is meant to accomplish the goal.
Belarus views the saturation of the domestic market with home-produced high quality medications as one of its priorities.
“In terms of value their share should make up 50% at the very least by the end of the year,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
According to the President, the world ratings place Belarus high in the level of healthcare development. The country provides maximum access to modern medicine for all layers of the population. “There are different medical centers in the capital city and regions. Hospitals are fitted with up-to-date medical equipment,” he noted.
Science should be focused on relevant tasks facing the country.
“Academic, industry-specific and university science should be focused on addressing relevant tasks facing the country. We are particularly interested in engineering, agricultural and healthcare sciences and the solutions that will be in demand by the economy,” the Belarusian leader said.
“We expect humanities to play a bigger role in cultivating patriotism, developing intellectual and creative potential of the nation. The ideological foundation of the society and the state should be solid and sound,” the President noted.
In his words, the integration of education and science is the imperative of our time. “Our task is to train specialists not only for the domestic economy, but also for scientific institutions. We should keep in mind that innovations play a decisive role in today’s world. Scientific solutions and their implementation play a leading part here,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined.
It is essential to step up efforts to use the potential of the Belarusian culture in the formation of the positive image of the country, Alexander Lukashenko said.
“Huge funds have been invested in the revival and renovation of a number of objects. However, we still underuse the potential of the Belarusian culture in the formation of the positive image of the country in the international arena. We need high-quality literature, paintings, theater productions, films to illustrate the life of our young sovereign state,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The Belarusian leader noted that people want to watch good films and listen to good music. A lot of films are produced in Russia with the participation of Belarusian experts. It is time for Belarus to develop this field.
The head of state deems it necessary to develop creative unions which will encourage creative people to work harder.
He also noted that mass media should pay more attention to the works of art which are included in the national, European and world cultural heritage.
All solutions in the social and cultural sphere should be aimed at building a hard-working, educated and healthy nation. It is and will be a backbone of the country’s wellbeing, the President said. The President also answered a number of questions of those present at the joint session of the parliament.
Belarus is developing the nationwide program to improve the system of water supply and disposal Clean Water for 2016-2020, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said addressing MP Leonid Kovalevich.
“The government is working out the Clean Water program for 2016-2020. I guarantee that this issue will be solved in the next five-year period,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The head of state reminded that possible solutions of the water supply and disposal issues in the Chernobyl-affected regions of Gomel Oblast were discussed several years ago. The ideas have been used as a foundation for the nationwide program. “A lot has been done already, but it is still essential to revise a number of issues,” the Belarusian leader believes.
Amnesty for those convicted of economic crimes is possible, Alexander Lukashenko said as he talked to MP Lyudmila Mikhalkova.
According to the head of state, this measure should not be applied to all economic crimes. “You know my attitude to economic crimes, especially corruption. There are economic crimes however when a person pays for the damage in full. I think we can do this in such cases,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
In his words, it is necessary to work out a list of persons convicted of such crimes that deserve amnesty. “If it is not done far and wide, I will support you,” the Belarusian leader said.