It is needed to create at least equal conditions for the operation of Belarusian free economic zones (FEZs) on the market of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said at the session to discuss the operation and development of free economic zones on 27 December.
“In the near future, starting from 1 January 2017, the terms of work of FEZ resident companies will change significantly. The documents passed within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union abolish certain customs privileges. We have to take these requirements into account,” the President said. “At the same time, in the tough competition for investors’ capital our free economic zones should not become less competitive on the platform of the Eurasian Economic Union. It is needed to create at least equal conditions for their operation on the EEU market.”
Alexander Lukashenko remarked that the government has prepared proposals in the form of a draft decree aimed at raising the investment appeal of FEZs and stimulating the investment activities of resident companies.
Alexander Lukashenko raised a number of questions of crucial importance at the session. These include the measures that should be taken to cover the losses of FEZ resident companies and preserve favorable business conditions for them; the efforts to enhance the competitiveness of products on conventional markets.
The President also wondered if the submitted proposals help support existing companies and stimulate the inflow of new external and internal investments.
“We should not be too slow to act. Principled decisions are needed today because on 1 January 2017 the resident companies of free economic zones will start working in new economic conditions,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Belarusian free economic zones should be more efficient, Alexander Lukashenko said. “What does the state get from the operation of these free economic zones?” Alexander Lukashenko asked. “I mean our Belarusian state, not a banana republic where it is a blessing to involve a person in a certain business activity,” he added.
The President remarked that FEZ resident companies transferred slightly more than $200 million to the budget in 2016. “But I was especially surprised by the salaries in the free economic zones where the companies are not poor. The directors of these companies are not poor either. The salaries there are about $350 in equivalent. What is that supposed to mean? It means that the heads of these companies just pay as much as the country’s average salary and feel well,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko stressed that the current inflow of investments is too low. “We have discussed the investments a lot, but this year, as we can see, the inflow of investments in free economic zones has been close to zero,” he said.
The measures that were reviewed at the meeting included the easements on the payment of VAT, rent of land, the extension of service of the Belarusian FEZs, relaxing the investment threshold requirement for the registration of new resident companies. The boundaries of the free economic zones Brest, Grodnoinvest and Vitebsk will be extended.
Alexander Lukashenko supported these proposals and instructed to finalize the draft decree as soon as possible.
The President also gave an instruction to analyze and improve the performance of the Entrepreneurship Development Council which should handle general issues in business and work out corresponding harmonized solutions, generate new ideas.