Aleksandr Lukashenko hears out report of Minsk Mayor Andrei Shorets

    President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko gave an instruction to keep a tab on the prices in Minsk ahead of New Year holidays as he heard out a report of Chairman of the Minsk City Council Andrei Shorets on 8 December.

    “Soon we will celebrate the most popular holidays, New Year and Christmas. Every person wants to have a good celebration. You understand very well that although Minsk is richer than other regions of the country, there are wealthy, middle-class and poor people here. We should not forget that New Year is a feast. At the end of a difficult year people deserve to make purchases at reasonable prices. The main objective is to prevent price hikes during this period,” the head of state remarked.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “We have noticed that not only in Russia but here too some businessmen want to line their pockets. There are a few such people in Belarus. We must do our best to prevent them from pushing up prices.”

    The President told the Minsk mayor that he is in charge of prices and order in Minsk although the Trade Ministry has been authorized to control pricing. “Therefore, do your best to prepare Minsk for these holidays, to raise people’s mood. The main thing is to take care of children,” the head of state said. “Minsk is an example for the entire country. You should pay the most serious attention to this fact,” the Belarusian leader said.

    Andrei Shorets said that the Minsk City Council had decided in favor of creating a municipal retail chain that would encourage lower prices in major retail chains by providing products at low prices in its own shops. According to the Mayor, the municipal retail chain is capable of offering a quality product range at affordable prices. The present concept provides for using over 40 shops to create the municipal retail chain. According to Andrei Shorets, it will be kind of a counterbalance to major retail chains, which will have to take our prices into consideration.

    The head of state backed the idea by saying it was the right thing to do, the chain would offer market prices and yet would encourage its competitors to reduce prices. Yet the Belarusian leader said he believes that it would be difficult for a retail chain of 40 shops only to hold any sway over prices in major retail chains in a city with two million residents. “Make no mistake. Apart from these market economy mechanisms it is necessary to secure administrative control primarily over private retailers to discourage them from inflating prices. Keep it under control,” the President stressed.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said he believes it is necessary to expand the municipal retail chain without damaging interests of the shops involved. “They cannot operate in the red because of the low prices,” said the Belarusian leader. According to the head of state, the municipal retail chain will give the ability to assess the state of affairs in the retail industry on the whole as well as the real cost of merchandise.

    “There was a time when I said no to the idea of completely privatizing retail in Minsk. I managed to keep one third of the retail industry in the capital city under state control. My key purpose was to see the processes going on in retail industry by managing these state assets,” the President noted. According to the head of state, the Minsk Mayor should not be afraid of expanding state retail without deterring private retail.

    “I’ve said no to proposals to sell the department stores TSUM, GUM, and Belarus by saying that we were not going to sell them because we had to be able to control large stores and offer alternatives in retail. Transparent retail is the most important thing. This is why it is good that you are creating municipal retail chains. They should be expanded,” the President told the Minsk Mayor. Aleksandr Lukashenko said he believes it is necessary to support those, who will work in this municipal retail chain. “It will be competition. And the most important thing is that we will be able to see processes going on in retail via these shops,” added the Belarusian leader. “State-owned retail will demonstrate what kind of private retail we need. We will be able to compare both kinds and see whether anyone is too fat or operates in the red. We will be able to see the structure of expenses in retail on the whole”.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko is set to hear out a report by the Minsk Mayor’s Office at the start of 2015 and to study the development prospects of the Belarusian capital city.

    “I know that you have a number of questions regarding the construction, real estate and other issues,” the head of state said addressing the Mayor. “Tell me what has been done wrong in Minsk and what you are going to do about it. Minsk is an intellectual hub, therefore, we need to think twice before we do something,” the President added.

    “I would like you to think carefully over the development of our capital, Minsk Hero-City, because the next year is a special one. Minsk shapes the country’s sentiments, it will determine, mostly or entirely, the essence of the processes that will take place,” the President noted.

    Matters of investment activities in Minsk and the implementation of individual investment projects were discussed at the meeting. The head of state gave instructions to speed up interaction with investors as much as possible, rule out red-tape practices and formalistic attitudes in order to allow investors to take care of construction and investment instead of wasting time on bureaucrats, said Andrei Shorets.

    Apart from that, the President backed the city administration’s proposal to convert non-living premises such as pram storage rooms and electric switchboard rooms into commercial housing premises provided the premises are fit for living in. At present there are 461 premises like that, with only 109 ones unfit for living.

    Social and cultural issues were also on the agenda of the meeting.