Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park project

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Urgent measures are needed to accelerate the construction of the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement at the government session held on 14 February to discuss the Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park project.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the large-scale project is of special importance. It is a momentous example of Belarus-China strategic cooperation and an important incentive for the development of the economy.

According to the President, the implementation of the project will open up prospects for assimilating high technologies as well as cutting-edge international practices in doing business, management, construction, and the management of industrial enterprises. The amount of work and capital investments are huge. In essence a new city will be created near Minsk, an independent territorial and economic unit will be created. It will be home to innovative, export-oriented enterprises and will offer comfortable living standards, too.

Yet the head of state was displeased with the Park’s construction progress. He was concerned with the fact that the process is too slow, that it is short of being stuck despite its massive importance for the state. According to the President, it represents another example of the lack of effort on the part of the central government and persons responsible.

For instance, it took eight months to develop and authorize the general layout of the Park.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also remarked that not all the matters are taken care of as far as the financing of the project is concerned.

“We were in agreement that the Park will not be a conglomerate of some enterprises, moreover, the enterprises that exist in Belarus already and make certain commodities,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko. “For instance, why do we need a new tractor factory or a truck factory in the Park? We shouldn’t put the enterprises that already exist in Belarus into the Park. We were in agreement that if we are to set up a manufacturing enterprise in Belarus, the center of Europe, then the enterprise should be a cutting-edge one. Promising enterprises, internationally recognized brands should be represented in this territory”. The President had instructed the Prime Minister to monitor these matters.

The President also raised the issue of the information campaign meant to attract residents to the Park. “The Foreign Ministry has sent 1,500 booklets to the embassies, accomplishment reports have been filed and that’s it, they are just waiting now. What are you waiting for?” asked the head of state.

The President underlined that with the relevant decree the project had been granted preferential taxation terms to survive competition both in the Customs Union and the European Union. A special public private mechanism to manage the park has been created, the relevant organizational structures have been set up.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said he had seen a new draft decree concerning the Park. “I am not against the idea of discussing the decree. But I am afraid the new decree may follow the way of the previous decree [on establishing the Park] that has been signed already,” he said. Aleksandr Lukashenko was curious why the new decree was needed.

The head of state went on saying: “If the hotheads, who suggested the Park initially, are cooled down now and believe Belarus doesn’t need it, pick up your courage and tell me about it. We don’t need just another free economic zone. We need cutting-edge enterprises, we need factories that will manufacture products to sell worldwide, we need most advanced enterprises. We don’t even need jobs as we are used to saying. All the Belarusians are employed. Contrariwise, we lack human resources”. High-performance jobs are needed.

All the things are in place in order to create such enterprises in Belarus, believes the President. “We have the most important factors — people and stability in the country that many states lack these days. Investors say they are on the lookout for safe havens to invest their money, for enterprises for the sake of calmly working and making the necessary products,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko.

According to Vice Premier Anatoly Tozik, the detailed plan of the priority development area should be coordinated with China in the first place. One of the main goals is to minimize the costs for the construction of the associated infrastructure. The Vice Premier believes that a part of the infrastructure could be developed with the help of the national budget. The new draft decree contains proposals to reduce the cost loading on investors. Besides, it is important to revise the mechanism of applying certain legislative norms.

“In what concerns additional preferences and easing of some regimes you are free to bring novelty, but I do not see any novelty in your proposals,” the President said.

“If you want another project, half of it at least, to be implemented by means of the budget, we have no such money available,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the focus should be made on the economic rationale of the project. “We do not need any politics here. I have no money for this kind of politics. This should be a purely commercial project. If the Chinese gave loans under the interest rate of 2.5-3% to someone, we will not take their loans at the interest rate of 5-6%. This is the politics. This should be a commercial project. China must be interested in it more than anyone. This project is very important for them. They need to penetrate this part of the globe where they do not have a solid presence. We give them such an opportunity,” the Belarusian head of state said.

The Belarusian President reminded that he had a conversation with President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China during his visit to Sochi. During the meeting that lasted for 1.5 hours the Chinese leader asked about the difficulties while implementing joint projects and offered assistance.

“We are working on this project,” Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich assured. He noted that attractive terms should be created for investors.

“We offered the premises, we are ready to train people, provide gas service and build a road. But this does not mean that we will work there instead of everyone,” the head of state said.

Minsk Oblast Governor Semyon Shapiro urged to reduce the cost of land to be provided to investors. Similar parks in Europe offer land plots for about $50 per square meter. “We must be able to offer them at $40-50. In this case investors will be interested to work in the park. An agreement has been reached on it. I think the project will gain momentum from now on. Our design offices have already started working on it,” the Minsk Oblast Governor said.

Summarizing the results of the meeting, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that there was no necessity to develop the whole area allocated for the park at the first stage and make extra investments.

“You have convinced me that we need this park. I have set forth a task. One condition is that we need only highly efficient and technological companies there. To have such a highly technological park, such an industrial platform in the center of Europe is a benefit. No one argues it and I do not abandon the idea. We have agreed on the issue with the former Chairman of the People’s Republic of China  and the current President (Xi Jinping) is even a more committed supporter of our cooperation,” the head of state said.