Aleksandr Lukashenko holds meeting to discuss activity of Entrepreneurship Development Council

    The Council for Entrepreneurship Development should become a powerhouse of brilliant ideas and help implement a positive potential of the Belarusian business community, President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the government session held on 26 February to discuss the operation of the Council for Entrepreneurship Development in Belarus.

    “Over nearly ten years the previous composition of the Council has not fulfilled my major task – to become a direct link between the business and the government,” the President said.

    “Judge for yourself. I am holding a package of documents detailing the work of the Council since its establishment in 1999. When you read it, you get an impression that a lot has been done: regular meetings with representatives of the private sector, seminars, roundtable and “square-table” sessions to discuss topical issues, analytical reports to the government and other government agencies, a great number of publications in scientific journals, media appearances, annual examination of regulations, and so on”, the head of state said. However, they failed to do the most important thing, the task that was set at the first session of the Council of the previous composition – to submit their proposals directly, including suggestions to optimize legislation and operation of the entire business community, to keep in touch with entrepreneurs.

    “We have defined tasks for the new Council for Entrepreneurship Development. They are included in the decree and I hope that you know not only know about the decree but also took an active part in its development,” the head of state told those present at the meeting. “Without repeating these requirements I would like to personally inform you about what cannot be stated in a dry language of legal acts,” the President said.

    The head of state said that Belarusian businessmen should not attempt to find “protection” in government agencies. “I would like you to clearly understand that any attempts of businessmen to influence government agencies for the sake of ‘protecting’ their good lives will result in the downfall of such initiatives and structures,” stressed the President.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that instead of lobbying for the interests of individual companies businessmen should exercise large-scale versatile constructive efforts. They should not solicit preferences and grants from the state budget. Instead the contribution of the private sector to the gross domestic product and better effectiveness of the Belarusian economy should rise.

    “I would like to emphasize that if any businessmen finance ‘the fifth column’ or negatively influence the society in some way, I will regard it as their involvement in the political struggle, the struggle against the state. Such struggle has its own laws. Such businessmen should not complain afterwards,” said the head of state.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that businessmen should routinely participate in social programs. “Then people will respect you. And no one will have to talk about the negative image of businessmen,” Aleksandr Lukashenko believes.

    The President said that he had specifically asked to set up the Council for Entrepreneurship Development without involving civil servants and officials except for the chairman in order to avoid a puppet council. “You are well-established businessmen. It is very important for me to hear your opinion about the most topical aspects of the social and economic policy. I am particularly interested in an alternative point of view, which differs from the point of view of the government and other officials,” said the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that he expected participants of the session to come up with proposals about general matters that the President has to deal with or should pay close attention to.

    “Piotr Petrovich Prokopovich has been appointed head of the council. He has a direct link to the head of state. So I ask you to be more active so that the country could get real benefits from your work,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that actively influencing the businessmen community is the most important task of the Council as well as raising the community’s awareness about the government policy in order to ensure an optimal combination of interests of the society and the businessmen, create conditions for a civilized market, support producers of commodities and services instead of profiteering resellers.

    The President pointed out that the national economy modernization is not a task purely for the public sector. In his words, the entire Belarusian business and the largest number of foreign investors should be engaged in accomplishing the goal.

    “The council was set up in its time to help fully reveal the positive potential of entrepreneurship, to encourage and support the establishment of effectively operating market structures, to resolve existing problems without red tape,” reminded the head of state. He noted that today he wants businessmen to come up with proposals about how the representative body can work more productively. “The decisions made today should radically improve the performance of the Council to make it match the highest modern requirements,” the President said.

    The head of state noted that this is virtually the only council set up under the auspices of the President. He explained why he agreed to give the green light to the establishment of this Council: “Things got very confusing, there were many people from law enforcement bodies and government agencies who wanted to give “protection” to you and line their pockets. It was pretty common back then; I guess, things have changed by now. Anyway, I was not happy about the situation. There were many people who wanted to intimidate, harass and jail businessmen. That was totally unacceptable for the state. That was why it was important for me to help newcomers fit into the policy that had only one objective: to make life easier for you and people who work with you. I wanted everything to be fair and honest. You better know what is going on in the business community; you should have updated me on that.” The head of state noted that he did not get this information from entrepreneurs.

    “Therefore I had to appoint a person who was close to me and who could voice his position openly and honestly, even if it was different from the opinions of the rest,” the President said.
    Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that businessmen are not those people who need overprotection. “You are not disabled or pensioners. You started you business in a bid to get your place in the sun, work for yourself, make good money, pay taxes, so that the government could keep going and help those who cannot earn as much as you do. Nobody says that you should be stripped of everything you have. Therefore, let us be generous. This does not mean that we should give away money to someone just for nothing. Everybody should work. But if you see that you can help an orphanage, support sports, healthcare and education, the things that are essential for us, let us team up to help them,” the President said. “You cannot accuse me of forcing businessmen to help the state. If you can do it, then do it, if you cannot – that is up to you. This will determine the attitude of the state and me towards you,” the President added. He noted that he is “equally close” to everyone: businessmen, non-businessmen, everyone who wants to do good for the country”. “Therefore, if you have projects that might benefit the country, go ahead, my door is always open. I will help,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Lobbying someone’s interests to make it easier for someone is unacceptable,” the President warned.