Meeting to discuss measures to ensure sustainable operation of economy, social sector amid global epidemiological situation
President Aleksandr Lukashenko held a government conference to discuss
priority measures to ensure the sustainable operation of the economy and
the social sector amid the global epidemiological situation on 23
meeting at the Palace of Independence was attended by top-ranking
government officials, governors and aides to the President. “We have
gathered together to discuss measures to ensure the sustainable
operation of the economy and the social sector. First of all, such
crucial sectors as healthcare and education. We need to make a number of
prompt decisions on pending issues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the
beginning of the meeting.
remarked that the world had changed beyond recognition in the past four
months. “Allies, whose borders were open for decades, who maintained
good relations with each other, reinstated those borders overnight and
destroyed relations. This pertains to the whole world, you can see it.
But people and those irretrievable losses in people’s relations are the
main things. The global economy is currently under pressure from an
unsolved problem – the so-called pandemic. Obviously, it also affects
our country,” the head of state said.
President emphasized that Belarus – a country an export-oriented
economy – cannot fully isolate itself from the influence on its economy
and on the way of life of its people. The country has utilized all
available resources to fight the new infection, and the volume of these
resources is commensurable with the existing threat, Aleksandr
Lukashenko said. “We are responding adequately without exaggerations,”
head of state sad that Belarus will not disregard the recommendations
of the World Health Organization but will act accordingly. “The director
general of the World Health Organization sent me a letter yesterday
thanking our country for the actions we are taking to combat the
disease. The measures recommended by the WHO should be studied in
detail,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “But what if they, let’s say,
recommend us to impose some measures up to the curfew? I emphasize once
again: if such a need arises we will impose the curfew, isolate cities,
towns and villages. But is the country facing such a problem today? No.
Therefore, we will not shrug off the the recommendations, but we must
act accordingly, based on a set of recommendations, our experience.
There is no room for hit-or-miss or just-in-case strategies. It will not
get worse, but if we keep healthy people in the hospital just in case,
we will not run out of hospital beds,” the Belarusian leader said.
President added that Belarus has significantly increased the capacity
of healthcare institutions, the capacity to produce domestic drugs and
medical products. He stressed that now it is important not to
overstretch the healthcare system. So far, according to him, Belarus is
coping with this. “We are monitoring the incidence of COVID-19. But we
pay attention, first of all, to the incidence of pneumonia, because any
pneumonia can be aggravated by COVID-19, as is often the case. This is
why the Healthcare Ministry, the whole healthcare system, thousands of
healthcare workers need to focus on treating patients for pneumonia. At
the same time we should not forget that there are other diseases," the
head of state said.
Lukashenko is convinced that the country will cope with the coronavirus
problem. This problem, the head of state believes, is becoming more
political. “We will not have supporters, even sympathizers because we
are going against the tide. We are acting in accordance with the
situation, our healthcare system capabilities. We will be facing more of
these viral diseases in this small, ugly world. We need to reinforce
the healthcare system. This is one of the lessons. But we will talk
about it after,” the President said.
head of state also demanded to prevent overreach and panic in the
society while fighting against the spread of infection: "We have people
scared. They now think that it [coronavirus] is such an infection that
you should run away from those who have recovered from it. Those who
have recovered are our "golden pool". These people donate their blood so
that we could make plasma and treat people. The people who have
recovered should be proud that they stood up rather than being afraid of
people saying something about them".
healthcare industry employs almost 310,000 people, the total bed
capacity is about 100,000. Laboratories work around the clock. Depending
on the region the stocks of test kits are enough to last for 25 days.
Moreover, they are now produced in the country and they are of good
quality, the President noted.
the situation changes for the worse (I do not rule anything out, I am
looking with caution at any slightest development), we will use the
reserves. We have enough of them," Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “The
whole vertical of power, all civil servants, never mind the healthcare
system itself, should be involved in the effort to combat the disease.
This is why, apart from members of the government and regional
governors, I have invited regional commissioners and presidential aides
for the meeting. I would like us to have a full picture of the situation
in the regions so that we could produce the adequate response and help
the healthcare system,” the President said.
cannot stop the operation of key branches of the economy. And the life
showed us in a 4-6 weeks that we were right. All sides are now talking
more about the economy, about how we will live tomorrow, and that 350
million (this is a thin edge of the wedge) people will be starving
worldwide. I brought the issue to a head 1.5 months ago. No one is
criticizing me for it today. They start to change their minds and
realized that they need to restore the economy,” Aleksandr Lukashenko
President mentioned a record decrease in oil prices: the price for oil
is close to zero, this is unprecedented. “Therefore, the economy is a
priority. We do not have other sources for life except for the work of
our people,” the head of state stressed.
to the reports, the GDP reduced by 0.3% in Q1 2020. There cannot be and
will not be any justifications for the decrease in the GDP. Therefore,
you should step up efforts to fulfill the plans that we have,” Aleksandr
Lukashenko said. “Our small economy without a raw materials cushion had
to deal with three blows at the same time. He explained that at the
beginning of the year Belarus faced oil restrictions from the closest
partner; then the existing economic ties were torn apart and borders
were closed; and then the fight against COVID-19 began.
President stressed that in these conditions we should do our best to
hold out and prevent an economic decline. “We should do our best to keep
people’s trust in the current economic policy and to maintain stable
prices, at least, for important goods and services,” the head of state
added. The government should not interfere with the operation of the
Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade. It’s up to the minister
and his employees to make decisions. The main thing is to ensure
employment. We need to stimulate people and small business to work
harder,” the head of state added.
Lukashenko also remarked that in spite of a small GDP decline the real
income of the population went up 7.1% in Q1 2020. “This is a good
increase. I hope we will manage to keep it for the rest of the year,” he
government suggested determining those industries which will be
affected the most by the slowdown in economic activities and a smaller
demand. A package of measures which has been submitted to the President
includes regulations in taxation, leasing and labor relations, other
will be recommendations for governors and certain enterprises which the
government is in charge of. If we allocate certain funds for the
economy, the money will be distributed by governors. It was their
demand. They say they will decide whether they will support a store, a
synthetic fiber manufacturer, or a carpet factory. They are right, they
know better, if we give these funds to anybody. We should not divide
this money into small portions from Minsk. It makes no sense. It is good
that regions will handle it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
the head of state deems it necessary to stimulate people and especially
small business. “Restaurants should deliver food to enterprises and
people’s homes without inflating prices. We asked elderly people to stay
home, and they need food. Many families in self-isolation also need
food. And some restaurants have started doing it, while other facilities
are doing noting and are waiting for what we will give them. Nobody
will give anything to anybody. If somebody wants us to give something,
they need to tell us where we should take it. We cannot take anything
away from people who are now working really hard and give it to those
who are doing nothing. This will never happen,” the President stressed.
up, the head of state once again noted that thanks to the mobilization
of all agencies the country will cope with the spread of the infection
and its consequences, but each of the agencies must do their own thing:
doctors should treat people, governors - solve related problems, the
government - work on economic development. The President expects
responsible attitude, iron-clad discipline, diligence and dedication
from everyone. "We have to work harder at this difficult time," he
Minister of Belarus Sergei Rumas mentioned some figures at the
government conference. In particular, he said the country’s foreign
trade is balanced because the surplus of foreign trade in merchandise
and services amounted to $425 million in January-February 2020. The head
of government noted that the GDP growth rate totaled 99.7% in Q1 2020.
The figure is one percentage point below the quarterly target, yet it is
above all the foreign and domestic projections. The government focused
on developing domestic branches of the economy in conditions of the
to Sergei Rumas, the civil engineering industry made a positive
contribution to the GDP. This industry demonstrated a growth rate of
106.3%, with housing construction 10% up. Agriculture (104.5%),
informatization and communications industry (107.4%) contributed
positively as well. The prime minister also drew attention to the
operation of the branches of the manufacturing sector that rely on local
raw materials. He also mentioned metallurgy, woodworking industry, and
pharmaceutics. Cement production increased by 10% while ceramic tile
production went up by 2%.
the other sectors also demonstrated positive dynamics. Each and every
industry showed growth in February and March. Except the oil industry,
which started growing in April due to objective reasons,” he noted.