Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss merchandise sales by self-employed businessmen

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Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the government to work in close cooperation with businessmen in order to finalize the presented draft decree that will regulate merchandise sales by self-employed businessmen and other natural persons, spelling out clear and transparent norms and taking into account the interests of both the sides. The statement was made at the session held on 18 February to discuss the abovementioned draft decree.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked he was referring to 60,000 self-employed businessmen, who specialize in importing and selling merchandise. He reminded that when he met with market vendors in a Minsk marketplace back in 2005, an agreement on how self-employed businessmen will work was made, a special decree was adopted and it has been in effect since. At the same time, according to the President, Belarusian self-employed businessmen claim they can no longer work like that due to external circumstances. Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that he would like to get to the bottom of the problem, hear out sufficient information from participants of the session in order to make the final decision.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Some politicians representing the entrepreneurship community, although I can hardly say they are politicians representing the best interests of self-employed businessmen, are trying to blackmail the authorities, including the president of the country. They’d better not make such statements in mass media because it may bite them. Trying to scare me is useless. We are not going to allow a maidan in Belarus”.

The President underlined that everything will be done in a civilized manner because self-employed businessmen are the most advanced stratum of the society, people, who look forward to all kinds of reforms. “Therefore, if you want to live the way people live in the West, let’s say, we will enable such conditions for you. If you want to live the maidan way — and I am sorry for bringing it up, I have no intention of interfering with Ukraine’s internal affairs, the comparison is just good — it won’t happen in Belarus,” said the head of state.

“I know you are not poor people and may order any kind of an article in the gutter media, but I advise you not to because the outcome may be totally different from what you expect. And tell all kinds of Shumchenko or whatever their names are to stay away from you. These people have nothing in common with you, they aim for totally different goals,” said the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the decision will be made while keeping in mind benefits for consumers, which are the Belarusian nation, benefits for the Belarusian state, and benefits for self-employed businessmen. The head of state admitted that the job of market vendors is a difficult one. “You have to travel to Moscow, stay on your knees before someone, bag and carry the merchandise here, argue for some discounts in order to secure affordable prices, then you have to sell the merchandise here regardless of whether the weather is frosty or boiling hot. The job is a difficult one, I don’t try to flatter you, and you may be satisfied with it. I don’t mind. But everything should be done in a civilized manner,” remarked the President.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that it is inadmissible to try to play the government, suggesting delaying the decision. “Any temporary compromise decisions are inadmissible. We have made enough of them already,” said the head of state.

The President remarked that before signing the decree he would like to appreciate the depth of the processes going on in the entrepreneurship community. “If they are people, who scrap by, why do we have to pick on them?! If these people are extremely rich and can support the state in some way, we will ask them to share a bit with the state once they get rich, once they are well-established at the expense of the Belarusian nation and the state because they are consumers,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“I don’t need external motivations like the Customs Union that makes me put a noose on part of the Belarusian nation. I don’t need a customs union like that where we have to noose people, who work hard today,” added the President.

The President asked whether the adoption of the new document will result in the lack of some categories of goods. Premier Mikhail Myasnikovich and Vice Premier Piotr Prokopovich assured the head of state that this will not happen because of abundant supply of goods and a great number of market participants.

Head of the Belarusian Presidential Administration Andrei Kobyakov asked how the adoption of the new document will influence businessmen’s work and the number of those who prefer to go to the neighboring countries to purchase cheaper imported goods.

Piotr Prokopovich admitted that imported goods in the domestic market are more expensive than in the neighboring countries. He put this down to procurement via resellers. “That is why our goal is to deliver goods directly. We can supply any commodity directly. It takes just four or five days to deliver a container from China to Minsk. I do not see any problems,” the Vice Premier said.

“Neither do I! Several years ago I instructed you to create a center similar to Moscow’s Cherkizovsky Market so that our self-employed businessmen would not have to go to Moscow or somewhere else. Where is this market?” asked Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The Vice Premier said that plans have been made to implement such a project in the village of Bolabsovo in Orsha District and proposals to this end will be tabled before long. At the same time there are plans to create a network of other logistics centers in Belarus. Nevertheless Piotr Prokopovich noted that there are not so many businessmen who would like to work in line with this scheme because everyone is satisfied with the current system.

“They are satisfied because they do not have any alternative. Nothing has changed and they still go to Moscow. They have got used to this. This is natural: man gets used to something, creates particular mechanisms and is guided by them. You have not come up with any other idea. Secondly, you have not executed my order,” the President underlined.

“We need equal conditions for production and sales of any product. We do not abandon or ban imports. We want it to be transparent and civilized,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

At the end of the session Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the government to work in close cooperation with businessmen in order to finalize the presented draft decree, spelling out clear and transparent norms and taking into account the interests of both the sides. “The main thing is a civilized and transparent trade. You, Mikhail Vladimirovich (Preme Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich) and Piotr Prokopovich (Vice Premier of Belarus) are responsible for working out the relevant system. You will design it together with individual entrepreneurs. There should be no delays for the system to take effect. We are ready for it and businessmen are ready for it too, except for those who have something else in mind. No one should be offended here, we should listen to every proposal. Yet the main criteria, i.e. equal terms and transparent civilized trade, should be a priority,” the President said.

The head of state instructed the Trade Minister and other government officials and governors to set up distribution centers in every region by 1 July. “Most of the goods that we do not manufacture here should be imported in order not to create this deficit,” the President added.

“It will be you who will control prices set by these wholesalers. You should see to it that they do not set exorbitant prices. You know which profitability they should have. So you should hold them in check, even their salaries. I promise you that,” the head of state said addressing representatives of self-employed businessmen who were present at the session.

Aleksandr Lukashenko has added he expects a weighted position on the issues under discussion from businessmen, too. “Let us come to terms right now. If you decide to stage a strike after our today’s talks, you will have your workplace no longer,” the President noted.

“We will not reschedule anything and we will take this business out of the shadows. We will make it transparent. If we have our wholesale bases, of course our wholesale dealers will track the prices in Moscow. You will have cheaper products, transparent business,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.