Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session on residential construction in Minsk Oblast for Minsk city residents 

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed dissatisfaction with inadequate and unsatisfactory efforts to implement the government program to promote satellite towns. The head of state made the statement at a government session to discuss the residential construction in Minsk Oblast for Minsk city residents held on 17 January.

At the beginning of the session the head of state pointed out that residential construction is a very important topic because at present there is a task to promote economic growth in the regions and to develop all regions on an equal basis.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that back in 2008 the government was instructed to start working on the establishment and development of satellite towns of Minsk. In 2010 a government program was passed. “However, the program has made little headway so far. Most of the plans stipulated by the program are still in the pipeline or have been dropped altogether,” the Belarusian leader said. 

An apartment building for Minsk residents in Smolevichi has not been delivered yet. Its construction was launched in 2012. “The necessary engineering infrastructure has not been constructed yet even for this pilot project,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to elaborate a single development concept for the Minsk agglomeration that will take into consideration all the existing needs. It is also necessary to finalize the location of new residential neighborhoods in the satellite towns.

Aleksandr Lukashenko outlined several issues that need a special consideration. One of them is selection of land plots to be used for construction projects. “Over 50% of residential neighborhoods are to be built on farmland. I will tell you straight away that it is unacceptable. It is contrary to the concept of the rational use of farmland and the interests of the agribusiness that accounts for the bulk of Belarus’ exports,” the President said.

“There should not be any violations when it comes to farmland. The central government and the governors, especially the Minsk Oblast Governor, will be held responsible for that. We have plenty of land that will never be used for farming. Maybe, it will make construction a bit more expensive at first, but it will prove cheaper in the long run. Today the agribusiness is the country’s major exporter. Two years from now we should earn $7 billion on the export of agricultural products. Where are we going to grow crops if good lands will be used as construction sites?” the Belarusian leader wondered.

“We have enough marshlands, brushwood and other lands unsuitable for farming. We can use them to build apartment buildings and other residential houses or production facilities. It would still be better to cut off a piece of forest to build a settlement rather than to use farmland for that purpose. Chose land plots as big as three to four hectares and implement development projects there,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that huge financial resources will be needed to construct engineering and transport infrastructure. “What will be the sources of financing? We need to have a second look at these engineering and transport systems to make sure they will not be constructed to antiquated Soviet patterns when woodland was recklessly cut out and land was dug out notwithstanding the costs. We need to use the most advanced technologies,” the head of state remarked.

The President wanted to know if the ongoing large-scale projects are in compliance with the development concept of the region. These projects include the construction of the Chinese-BelarusianIndustrial Park, the operation of the FEZ Minsk (Fanipol and Dzerzhinsk), the development of the area adjoining the MinskNationalAirport, and the operation of big sports and recreation facilities, such as the Zaslavl water reservoir, Raubichi and Silichi. “Why are comprehensive development concepts abandoned in favor of stand-alone development plans based on the administrative divisions established in the previous period?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

The head of state was dissatisfied with the approaches to the implementation of the MinskCity project. “I am really puzzled by the approaches of Myasnikovich and Ladutko. We have taken all decisions on the MinskCity project. Why no proposals have been submitted yet.” “Do you really think that this 300-hectare plot of land will not be controlled in due manner. The one who will offer the best conditions should develop the territory. How much will you be beating the air,” the President wondered.

As far as the city of Minsk is concerned, Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded to build less housing and industrial infrastructure facilities in the capital city.

The President stated that construction pace in Minsk has to change. “There are too many people living in Minsk already and we are facing certain problems because of it. Therefore, the construction of homes, industrial infrastructure facilities, and other kinds of infrastructure can be allowed in the city only as an exception,” the President stated.

Construction in Minsk is virtually forbidden unless it is absolutely necessary, the Belarusian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the lack of housing is a major problem in Minsk. The number of Minsk residents increases by 10,000-17,000 people every year. Taking into account the people, who commute to Minsk for work on a daily basis, Minsk’s population already exceeds 2 million people. “However, the capital city’s capacity for placing enterprises and providing Minsk residents with homes is already depleted. Minsk’s residential density already exceeds the residential density of several European capitals by 2-3 times, for instance, Berlin and Prague,” said the head of state.

Due to the residential density the city infrastructure faces excessive pressure. The abundance of vehicles in the streets results in traffic jams. The problem of connecting new enterprises and residential buildings to municipal networks is now more pronounced. At the same time a decrease in workforce is registered in rural areas all over Belarus. The number of people living in small and medium towns is falling, with their economic potential declining. “These processes are particularly vivid in Minsk Oblast. In view of the facts the coordinated territorial development of the capital city and the central oblast becomes a top priority,” the President believes.

Yet Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that inside the Minsk ring road there are still land plots fit for development purposes. “These land plots should be auctioned and sold in a fair manner,” the President said. With this in mind Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed Head of the Belarus President Administration Andrei Kobyakov, Chairman of the State Control Committee Alexander Yakobson, and State Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Mezhuyev to make sure it is done in a transparent and honest manner.

“Therefore, let us decide what land plots inside the ring road we should build on. Those are aplenty,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

As an example Chairman of the Minsk City Council Nikolai Ladutko cited residential density figures in big cities and capitals of other countries. Thus, the residential density in Minsk is 6,200 per 1 square kilometer. There are 3,600 people per 1 square kilometer in St. Petersburg, 3,850 people per 1 square kilometer in Berlin, 4,100 people per 1 square kilometer in Beijing, 3,700 people per 1 square kilometer in Shanghai, 5,700 people per 1 square kilometer in Tokyo, 4,400 people per 1 square kilometer in Munich. The residential density in Minsk’s residential area Yugo-Zapad makes up 18,000 people per 1 square kilometer. According to Nikolai Ladutko, these figures prove that Minsk is a city with a huge population density. It has an influence on the engineering and transport infrastructure, the number of cars, the city’s ecology, social issues.

According to the Minsk Mayor, the state policy in city development should abandon the extensive way of development. And a lot has been done already. In particular, people are now put on waiting lists for better housing in ten years after they come to Minsk. These measures helped reduce the migration inflow from 17,000 people in 2009 to 11,000 people in 2013. However, the Minsk Mayor said that the analysis of territorial development, industrial improvement shows that these measures are not enough. Nikolai Ladutko deems it necessary to take additional measures to promote the development of the capital city without infringing upon the rights of Minsk residents. In particular, there are plans to build 500,000 square meters of housing starting from 2017 and to include this figure in the Minsk’s general construction plan adopted till 2030. These meters of housing will be built on the territory of Minsk City and within the Minsk ring road.

Nikolai Ladutko the residential housing construction program will not be phased out. People on waiting lists will be also offered rented and commercial housing.

The Minsk City Council suggests boosting construction of housing in satellite towns. The city administration has developed plans to build houses in Smolevichi, Smilovichi, Rudensk, Zaslavl, Sokol, Druzhny. In the future there are plans to include Fanipol, Dzerzhinsk and Molodechno.

Nikolai Ladutko said that large-scale construction will be started in Rudensk, Smolevichi and Sokol because these towns have a well-developed infrastructure, there are good prospects for creating new jobs, the commuter train will be launched in 2015.In his words, the average cost of 1 square meter of housing in Smolevichi will make up $1,800.

Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to create new jobs in the regions in order to avoid overpopulation in Minsk.

At the end of the government session the head of said that the general construction plan should be adjusted as soon as possible.