State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly
Robust economy and honest authority are the foundation of the country’s independence and prosperity
Distinguished members of parliament and the Council of the Republic,
Dear guests and diplomats,
I am speaking to you in this difficult time. The countries around us got in motion. Ukraine is boiling; Russia is rising again. The borders are shifting. For the first time in many years, Europe smells of explosions again…
The post-Soviet period is now over; a new era is about to start and no one knows what it will be like.
Fortunately, it is quiet in our country. We are still a responsible and reliable partner on the international arena wishing that all nations live peacefully. We are not involved in external conflicts.
Still, we have to be concerned. We do not live on some isolated island in the middle of the ocean. Any geopolitical cataclysms, especially in Eastern Europe, will certainly affect us.
In this situation we should by all means defend our major asset – the country’s independence, the right to live on our land and make our own decisions.
Three things are needed for that: the unity of the Belarusian people; the ability to learn from our mistakes and mistakes made by our neighbors; a clear vision of Belarus’ future that will be able to inspire and unite the older and younger generations.
We speak a lot about the unity of the people. It is not ritual words. The ancient Bible says: “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. Today the history shows us a tragic evidence of this millennial wisdom.
We, Belarusians, do not want the society to split and should not allow it. It is no doubt that our independence and young statehood irritate many a man. If we have a crack in our unity, there will be a lot of those wishing to take the advantage of it.
Thanks to the unity Belarus has been able to build an independent state over the past two decades. It is an achievement our ancestors dreamt about for centuries.
Our course has been chosen by the whole society – young and older generations, workers and peasants, businessmen and intelligentsia, the authorities’ followers and critics. It has been chosen by everyone who is not indifferent to the Fatherland and who loves Belarus. If we maintain our main value, the unity, in the future, Belarus will keep its independence and will continue its sustainable development.
Thanks to the unity we have chosen our path in the economy, the path of common sense and justice. We have not allowed pulling our property apart. We have not allowed dividing the society into the poor and the rich. We have protected and supported the man of labor. We have no blazing barricades, destroyed buildings. We do not have our people robbed and killed in broad daylight.
The unity of the nation does not mean uniform thinking. We do not need a grey society that would be complacent and indifferent about anything. Such a society would lack values, roots, and faith in itself. It would fall an easy prey to domestic and foreign hostile forces.
We need a live country with versatile ideas and opinions, with all the citizens having an active stance. Only then will we be able to weather any storm.
Today not only Belarus but entire Europe is at a turning point in historical eras. Every state has to answer to the challenge of the time. Our answer will not depend only on the government, the President, but each and every one of us, too.
Therefore, I would like everything that I will be talking about today to come up for broad discussion.
A sincere, honest public dialogue is the most reliable guarantee against splits and turmoil.
Belarus is a unique country in its own way. The eastern and western branches of Christianity – Orthodoxy and Catholicism – meet here. Belarusians, Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Poles, Tatars live here.
Our uniqueness is in the fact that they have been living peacefully and friendly for many years, helping each other, preserving their language and culture, and, with this, seeing themselves as part of a united body which name is the people of Belarus.
Of course, not everyone and not always liked it. There were quite a few attempts to undermine the peace in Belarus. They all ended up as a failure.
There were attempts to blame Belarus for infringing upon the interests of the Poles or Catholics. Later even our biggest enemies in Poland, for instance, were ashamed of these statements.
Today we can hear even more surprising statements of Belarus trying to harass Russians and the Russian language. Of course, it is hard to make up such silliness.
I will tell you, there is no other country in the world that would care so much for the great Russian language and the great Russian culture. I mean Russia too.
We made Russian our official language in the period when Russia and Russians were routinely humiliated.
More than that, we believe (and I reiterated it many times) that the
Russian language is a common asset of the three brotherly nations – Ukrainians,
Belarusians and Russians. And also other peoples that lived with us in one
country. I would like to make it clear once again for those who want to
‘privatize’ the Russian language. The language is ours. It is neither Russia’s nor Ukraine’s. It is ours. It is a
living asset of Belarusians, too.
How can we divide between Russia and us, for example, brilliant Dostoyevsky whose family comes from Belarus? How can we decide where Nikolai Gogol belongs – Russia or Ukraine? I think raising this question is absurd.
The three nations are united by a common historical background, great common victories, and common Orthodox spiritual traditions. Kievan Rus was our cradle. It was a powerful and proud European state with the capital on the DnieperRiver.
Three brotherly nations, distinctive nations, rose from this common spiritual Orthodox cradle. Each of these three nations now builds their own state.
We are not pro-Russian, not pro-Ukrainian, not pro-Polish. We are not Russians, we are Belarusians! Our country is Belaya Rus, which is home to Russians, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Poles, Jewish people, Tatars and many others. These are the children of Belaya Rus, citizens of one country – Belarus.
As for the statements of Belarus trying to harass Russians, I do not even want to talk about such nonsense. Any talks about Russianness, Belarusianness, pro-Russianness and pro-Ukranianness are a step towards the same chaos.
It seems someone wants it. We have always fought against Western pseudo-ideas from the NATO and others.
I have always instructed the law enforcement bodies, the State Security Committee to suppress any talks of the kin.
It is no wonder that different states rise from one spiritual and cultural root. It is natural. Just remember: there was time when Great Britain built the world’s biggest empire and created a foundation for the birth of new nations and states with Anglo-Saxon roots.
We, Belarusians, always remember the common historical roots with our Russia and our Ukraine.
The Russian Federation has always been and remains our strategic partner, our brothers. Not only Russians live there. These are our brothers who respect us. And we cannot lose this attitude.
This will not change in the future. The great Russian language will be developing freely in Belarus alongside the native Belarusian language. If we lose the Russian language, we will lose our minds.
If we stop speaking the Belarusian language, we will cease to be a nation.
Russian people as well as Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, Tatar, representatives of other faiths and ethnicities feel at home in Belarus because Belarus is their home, the home for all citizens of our state, regardless of their faith and blood.
Moreover, our home is too big for the number of people living here today.
I hope that Belarus’ population will continue to increase.
We, citizens of Belarus, will live in our own land, in our own country. We will live in peace and friendship with the neighbors. We will join any union only voluntarily and on equal terms and only for the benefit of our people.
Our historic road to independence was too long. Our forefathers shed too many tears and blood while fighting against many enslavers for the right to freely live in our own land and determine our destiny on our own.
Therefore, we will always treasure this right. The entire nation has to be united in order to defend this right.
Today I am addressing not only those who support the government (they are an absolute, overwhelming majority as the local elections showed). I want to address those who criticize the government for some reasons.
I am strongly convinced that the society should be tolerant to the multitude of opinions, discussions and criticism. Simultaneously we should apply zero tolerance to violence, hatred and revolutions.
We accept any opposition that acts within the framework of the law.
We are attentive to any criticism that is prompted by a sincere concern for the country, not by instructions from abroad.
We are open for any dialogue if this dialogue seeks to promote the interests of Belarus, not some parochial interests or foreign interests.
I will tell you more. The government is ready for a manageable, gradual and feasible evolution. However, we reject revolutions. I am against destroying things completely…
Anyone who calls for a revolt is an enemy not only to the government and the President. They are an enemy to our country, our people. They are an enemy to our unity and the independence of Belarus.
Such radicalism will be suppressed at the very start. We will not allow provocations and clashes.
Any call for an uprising, chaos, any promotion of violence will be harshly nipped in the bud.
I am absolutely convinced that while doing it the government will be supported by the entire nation, and not only our nation.
Neither our people, nor history will forgive those who will attempt to throw the country into disorder and split the nation following their ambitions and the instructions of some ill-wishers.
In order to be confident in the future it is necessary not only to look back at the past, but also to look around. In other words, we must learn from our mistakes and mistakes made by our neighbors.
I have already said that there are two reasons behind the crisis in Ukraine, namely weak economy and total corruption. These reasons are absolutely interdependent. The Ukrainian crisis is a warning for all. And we must draw conclusions.
Fortunately, no one can blame us in rampant corruption, indifference of the government to this problem, impunity of corrupt people. We constantly and fiercely fight against this vice.
It was, is and will remain my principled position not only as a President, but also as a person and a citizen. Everybody knows it, even the severest critics of the government.
But can we say that we have beaten the evil in our country? Unfortunately, we cannot.
There are a few examples about which I have been informed recently.
Last year law enforcement bodies uncovered a criminal scheme organized by the management of Belcoopsoyuz. They wanted ‘under the table’ payments for the permissions to carry out construction and installation works, took bribes to illegally sell real estate and land plots. They wanted a $0.5 million bribe to sell a building in the center of Minsk.
Belcoopsoyuz Chairman Sergei Sidko even bought a house in Canary Islands and registered his daughter as an owner. Probably, he hoped that law enforcement bodies would not find him there.
Some officials seem to take bribes systematically.
At the end of February police arrested Chairman of Bellegprom Concern Mikhail Suchkov and Director of Slonim Worsted and Spinning Factory Valentina Venskovskaya for taking bribes. As part of the criminal case law enforcement bodies withdrew over $1 million and gold bars, seized elite cars, a few apartments in Minsk, expensive household and office equipment.
Another example is Deputy Chairman of Belneftekhim Concern Vladimir Volkov who was arrested after taking a bribe. Police seized two flats in Minsk, a garage, expensive cars, $100,000. The court will find out how a simple civil servant could obtain all these assets.
A criminal case against Deputy Chairman of the Orsha District Executive Committee Ivan Khurbatov was launched upon the suspicion of power abuse.
The firm of his son which does not have an address and equipment in Orsha won all sorts of construction tenders. Profiteering interests and favoritism of a local official helped his son to have a life of ease.
We launched this fight against corruption many years ago and punished offenders severely. Law enforcement bodies report about punitive measures and preventive actions. However, I think that we should step up efforts to prevent such cases, eliminate causes and conditions which instigate corruption.
In order to minimize corruption risks we have devised a complicated public procurement system.
But nevertheless this system did not stop Deputy Sport and Tourism Minister Sergei Nereda from being bribed by commercial organizations which wanted to win tenders for the delivery of sport equipment.
With a view to selecting reliable lawyers and real estate agents we now give licenses for their activities. But those who ought to supervise the professional level of candidates make their choices depending on other criteria, namely the size of bribes. Officials of the Justice Ministry Grishkovets and Berezovskaya were accused of 28 cases of bribery.
Unfortunately, even judges do not always obey the law. They sometimes prioritize pragmatic money interests.
Last year judge of Bobruisk District and the town of Bobruisk Lukansky and judge of the Svetlogorsk District court Vashchilin were sentenced to 14 and 13 years in prison for bribery respectively.
At the beginning of April Deputy Chairman of the Leninsky District court in Mogilev Umarov was sentenced to 14 years in prison for bribery. By the way, he is a middle-aged man. He was 59 on 1 April. In 14 years he will be 73. It is questionable whether he will be released from jail and see his children and grandchildren once again. Is instantaneous profit worth it?
This year Chairman of the Kirovsk District court, Mogilev Oblast, Klimov and Deputy Chairman of the Leninsky District court in Gomel Zhorov have been caught red handed.
Remember, there will be no concessions for people involved in corruption!
Corruption even corrodes the institutions which must be in the frontline of fight against this malady. We will root out this evil mercilessly.
You know that a criminal case has been recently launched against four officials of the KGB’s department in Gomel Oblast, including the department head who organized paid-for audits in commercial organizations for the benefit of their rivals.
A criminal case against Deputy Prosecutor General Arkhipov has been submitted to court. He was given a gold bar and a bottle of cognac as a bribe for the termination of a criminal case against a drunk person who was driving without a driving license and caused an accident which claimed the life of a girl who was travelling with him.
Head of the Minsk District department of the Investigation Committee Yanushko was accused of getting a bribe as part of the same criminal case.
The investigation of seven cases of bribery which involve his colleagues from the Minsk’s Tsentralny District department of the Investigation Committee Supinsky, Kontus and Matskevich is currently underway.
Senior officer of the anti-organized crime and anti-corruption department of the Interior Ministry Sakovich took a $30,000 bribe to help businessmen get permission for the construction of a number of facilities in Minsk. It is also necessary to investigate who gave this permission. Those guilty should be punished.
Illegal activities of customs officials are not left without attention either.
Police unveiled a scheme when businessmen used the support of corrupt workers of the Brest customs office to import about 200 freight vehicles and buses in parts from the European Union. They evaded taxes to the tune of more than €3 million.
The Minsk regional customs office has also devised a full-fledged scheme to take bribes from the citizens of Russia and Kazakhstan who imported vehicles on preferential terms.
Certain heads of customs bodies not only facilitated the movement of goods, but also managed big illicit trade channels. For example, head of the Kozlovichi customs terminal Guryev organized a channel for the illegal transportation of large material assets worth more than Br423 million.
The real production sector is also hit by corruption. ’Under the table’ payments, bribes, abuse of authorities are uncovered in all industries.
We have recently stepped up control over the construction industry. About 18 kilograms of gold, almost $500,000 on bank accounts and nearly $10,000 in cash were withdrawn as part of the criminal case against the managerial personnel of OOO Antasam. Contractors which were building a high-rise block of flats failed to commission the building on time and misappropriated the funds of stakeholders.
In August 2013 deputy head of the company Gordormaterialy Krepsky was accused of taking a bribe in the amount of $20,000. He facilitated the pilferage of 819 tonnes of bitumen concrete mix which was supposed to be used for the construction of the road network in Minsk.
This is not just one episode, not one vehicle with asphalt. How many drivers and other people were involved in this crime? As they say in such cases, it is a rhetorical question. I have said all this to stress once again that we always know everything about offences against the law and corruption.
Head of the company Minskcoopvtorresursy Ivanov was accused of 26 cases of bribery in the amount of $26,000, almost Br100 million.
Corruption often goes hand in hand with negligence. Here, I should say, we have problems with the responsibility of the managerial staff.
It is quite often that managers who fail to do their job leave managerial posts and find other lucrative jobs very soon.
First Deputy Chairman of the Gomel Oblast Executive Committee Baranov was relieved of his post due to the manipulations with the sale of apartments in Gomel. After that he became First Deputy Director of Belorusneft – Gomeloblnefteproduct. Former First Deputy Chairman of the Gomel City Hall Ranko who was involved in the same case was appointed director of Gomel-based trust Belsantekhmontazh No. 1.
Former director of the NASB Property Management Directorate Serzhan concealed his record of conviction and became Deputy Head of the Zavodskoy District Administration in Minsk.
Of course, all of them were fired. I am reminding to you that this is my last warning to governors and the entire power vertical which place discredited managers into lucrative jobs. If the same happens again, you will be fired as well.
I reiterate: this pertains to governors and the entire power vertical.
If I suspect the deputy of, for example, Ladutko, I suspect Ladutko, too. If the deputy minister is under suspicion, it means the minister is the same. If I mention Gomel and the executive committee I bear in mind that Yakobson was the governor, Dvornik is the governor today.
I can give you another illustrative example regarding the promotion of Merkushev to the Head of Vitebsk’s Oktyabrsky District Administration in December 2011.
By the way, the Vitebsk Oblast governor is fiercely fighting against corruption.
When Merkushev worked as director of OAO BelVitunifarm he failed to implement an investment project to make import substituting medicines. Nevertheless, he was appointed First Deputy Chairman of the VitebskCity Hall.
He lost that job too. After that he could be appointed Head of the Oktyabrsky District Administration of Vitebsk. But he was not. In April 2013 he was once again appointed director of OAO BelVitunifarm. He was paid Br20 million monthly and had three deputies. He made so-called ‘business trips’ to Jordan with his family. He made the company bankrupt and escaped to a Baltic country.
The place for corrupt officials in Belarus had been defined long time ago – prison. Chaos at work is also akin to a crime. Sometimes it is even a more significant and serious situation for the state if we speak about the losses. Here we pass from words to actions.
Fail your work, no cushy jobs for you. Neither in the public nor the private sector, nowhere.
In the near future I will sign a decree to prohibit placing discredited managers into lucrative jobs.
It will be a strict but fair decree.
First, there will be personal responsibility for managers and specialists for the situation at the company under their control.
That will include the safety of workers, the order in workshops, yards and warehouses.
Second, the decree will envisage compulsory coordination by the local authorities of any shift in managers, deputies and chief specialists at every state-run and private company.
A number of systemic measures have to be implemented within the next few years in order to fight corruption.
In the near future we need to introduce a number of system measures to curb this evil.
First, the civil service should get rid of excessive and non-core functions.
It should take care only of the functions that nobody but the state can do and should do. Everything else should be handed over to the society — the general public, enterprises, and the market.
I mean not only formal authority. The administrative procedures had been quite streamlined already.
But still there is administrative leverage. If some official is bent on forcing a businessman to pay tribute, the official will find a thousand ways to do it. And formally everything will be done in line with the law.
I mean not only the authority of civil servants but also power-wielding agencies and auditing ones. Sometimes those in charge of fighting corruption become the sources of corruption. Law enforcement agencies unfortunately sometimes offer ‘protection’ to private business, destroy competition under the guise of the fight against corruption, they resort to extortion using fines and criminal cases as threats.
We have recently drastically reduced the number of personnel employed by the civil service although the number was small in comparison with other countries. In Belarus the number of civil servants per 1,000 capita is one of the lowest in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In Belarus the number is 35 people. In Russia the number is 75, inKazakhstan about 50. It is up to 70 people in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland, the so-called market economies or twice as many as in Belarus.
it is now necessary to tackle a greater task — instead of reducing civil servant personnel numbers it is necessary to strip civil servants of excessive authority.
I would like the Belarus President Administration to take care of the matter right now. Get civil servants, businessmen, common citizens, mass media, and experts involved in the discussion. The system should start working by the end of the year.
It is part of the de-bureaucratization of our entire life that we have talked so much about and have adopted the relevant directive that the head of the Belarus President Administration is responsible for.
The task is more difficult than streamlining personnel numbers. But the effect will be much larger.
Second, we should live within our means.
State investment in the real sector will stay. There are areas nobody else but the state is going to finance in the foreseeable future. Those are primarily the infrastructure, roads, and communications. These are the branches that cannot promise a rapid return of investments. However, thoughtless spending of cheap money has to stop.
It is necessary to bring about a new system of state financial aid.
We do not have to go for risky projects and the projects that private business is willing to cover. We do not have to spend government money on those.
At the same time, the real production sector should put more efforts into earning its living and living at the expense of investments.
A tender-based scheme to distribute state money is necessary in Belarus. Private business can compete for this money, too. But the conditions that private business and state-run enterprises have to meet should be clear-cut, transparent and definitely equal.
We will move away from paternalism, close monitoring of state-run enterprises towards state support on equal terms for everyone. It is a principle and a general guideline.
But to implement the principle it will be necessary to revise the relevant economic policy instruments. If we handle it right, we will deliver a blow to corruption and thievery.
I want the government to get down to it right away.
Third, it is necessary to make civil service more prestigious.
We do not have that many civil servants left. We will strip them of excessive authority. But those still employed in the civil service will have to be the best ones.
The government system should bet on people with initiatives, people, who can think and bear responsibility.
In order to recruit the most qualified specialists it is necessary to raise the prestige of civil service.
Belarus never spoiled civil servants. Looking at neighboring countries and comparing how civil servants live here and there will suffice. A while ago Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that he was concerned about more and more young people willing to pursue a civil service career. Things are totally different in Belarus. Fewer and fewer people are willing to become civil servants.
On the one hand, it means that we keep a tight leash on civil servants and make them serve the nation. It is good. On the other hand, it is a reason for alarm. Capable young Belarusians and not only young ones are leaving for private business.
It is time to discuss once again the issue of salaries of civil servants. This also pertains to teachers and doctors. As for the public sector in general, the ratio of salaries of public sector employees and average salaries in the country is far from an optimal one. It is slightly above 70%.
I am far from the conceptual ideas which exist in Russia. Let us increase the salaries of civil servants ten times, then 100 times, then they can be fully sponsored by the government and we can hope that civil servants will be honest. Total nonsense. Everything depends on the person. In fact, the more a person gets, the more they long for. Today they are given a million, tomorrow they will want to get two millions.
Therefore we need to raise salaries. This will help civil servants to value their jobs, including from the material point of view. This work should be prestigious, but we need to toughen the requirements for civil servants, too.
Economy growth is the most important matter instead of some enemies inside and outside the country.
A robust and powerful economy can guarantee the independence of a country and its prosperity.
We have learned how cruel the global economy is. It does not forgive those who fail to notice the changes in time and do not change following them.
Time has come to improve the country's economic policy, in an evolutionary way, but firmly, without delay and hesitation.
The country will not abandon the basic public priorities: export, housing, food, etc. We will continue what we have begun. We will continue to modernize the manufacturing industry, agriculture, healthcare, will support innovations. But it is time we made new accents.
In the current circumstances it is necessary to focus on three basic areas:
first, the development of the domestic market;
second, improving the system of economic management;
third, support of competition.
About the development of the domestic market
The development of the domestic market is a backbone of our economic progress for the coming years.
Sometimes we say with pride that we have one of the most open economies in the world. The foreign trade turnover is more than 1.5 times higher than the gross domestic product. At the same time, Belarus is heavily dependent on the situation on external markets.
We have begun to prioritize export. It is absolutely natural. In the early 1990s our people could not afford to buy a lot because they did not have enough money. The domestic market was very small, poor and weak. The bulk of money came from foreign markets.
The state of affairs has changed since then.
First, people’s incomes have increased many times. It is possible to make good money on the internal market.
Second, the growth in people’s incomes is accompanied by the increase in demand. People also want to improve their living standards. At the same time, the entire world has made a great leap forward. There are dozens of new products and services.
Third, the competition on global markets became much tougher. There are many reasons for it, including the financial crisis, a bigger openness of the markets, competition with new market players from Asia.
All these conditions prove that it is time to pay attention to the domestic market. We can overcome difficulties on external markets by expanding our domestic market.
Moreover, we should fight for it because we can be squeezed by rivals.
We should not only focus on the manufacture of goods, but also on the services sector.
The development of the internal market, promotion of the ‘economy of services’ should be the backbone of Belarus’ new economic policy in the near future.
Of course, export was and will remain a priority.
About the improvement of the system of economic management
It is obvious today that the existing directive-based system of state planning with a bunch of indicators has exhausted itself.
Instead of gross figures we need results. Money in the treasury, money on accounts, money to pay salaries must be the key criteria. We do not need any other ones. It is necessary to radically rethink the performance indicators and reports system. It has to be absolutely simple.
With these principles in mind the next five-year program should be formed. The government should start the work right away.
Apart from that, government aid should not be used to save inefficient companies.
Ineffective enterprises have to be phased out. The state has to make profit by using its property. The state-owned packages of shares should be treated as market assets. Maximum profits must be secured.
Controlled shutdown should be used against bankrupt companies. Executives and specialists, who have allowed the company to go bankrupt, have to be fired unless they face jail terms. The manufacturing assets that can be used should be recycled. The rest should be utilized. We should know and predict what a specific shutdown can produce. All the healthy bits should be used properly.
If someone is willing to ‘take a dip’ in order to avoid debts, they will face responsibility.
The government should once again revise bankruptcy procedures. These procedures cannot take forever. They are supposed to produce maximum results within the shortest possible time. We have to naturally phase out dead enterprises. We do not want dead enterprises to waste our resources, which would be much more useful in other areas.
Competition is the major engine of the economy and progress in general. The true power of a market economy lies in competition.
It is not the private property and the market that make the market economy effective and successful, but competition.
The enabling of real competition is one of the fundamental tasks of the state in economy.
There are a few problems we need to address.
First, it is necessary to improve the system of state property management.
The government has bowed to enterprises and manually performs the functions of supervisory boards.
As a result, the state-run enterprises can no longer work on their own, they always expect instructions and support.
Ministries now manage individual state-owned enterprises instead of entire industries.
At the same time private enterprises operate in the same industry and sometimes those enterprises are rather large.
As a result, the ministry fails to take care of the development of all the economic operators because it focuses efforts on its own enterprises.
Monopolies are the second issue.
There are monopolies all over the world. They are no absolute evil.
Any facts of price hikes, especially for consumer goods, should be a matter of careful analysis for the government and oblast executive committees.
The country has a situation when a working group under the aegis of the State Control Committee has to revise the norms and basic standard costs regarding the prime cost of utility services, assess the management structure in the utilities sector, and so on.
Three fundamental things - fast development of the domestic market, improvement of economic management mechanisms and all-round promotion of competition – should become the three pillars of the new economic policy.
As I have said before, we will not give up on traditional growth points.
No matter how hard it might be for us, we keep working, we are busy upgrading the manufacturing industry.
There is nothing extraordinary about it. If we do not upgrade it now, we will not be able to sell anything on international markets in the future, we will not be able to export anything, thus we will not receive foreign currency revenues to pay for oil and gas.
During this five-year period Belarus invested 1.5 times more than in the previous five-year period.
Those were projects in mechanical engineering, metallurgy, chemical and petrochemical industry, agribusiness, pharmaceutics, pulp and paper industry, wood processing, production of building materials, leather and textile industries.
I want to pay special attention to three aspects.
First of all, the failure to deliver upgrade projects on time is inadmissible. You are aware of the consequences of such failures at the example of the woodworking industry.
Second, mismanagement, corrupt practices, especially stealing, are equally unacceptable. I keep a watchful eye on it. Measures are taken immediately.
Third, and today it is taking a forefront, an efficient use of the upgraded capacities, development of new markets.
Not long ago I chaired a session to discuss the efficiency of modernization at the Belarusian brewing industry. As far as I know, an estimated $350 million has been invested in this industry. We have set up a good company, installed high-technology equipment. We have raw materials and can make good beer. But half of the capacity remains idle. 30% of the market is imported beer. Is it normal?
The human factor has played the deciding role in this failure. When we, by force of some personal, mercantile interests, lose what we could gain.
As for the development of the agricultural sector, in the near future these issues will be considered at a nationwide session, the same as we considered construction. The Prime Minister will report on the performance of this group. The talk will be principal. What I can say now is that you cannot hope for debt forgiveness. No one will write off any debt. I warn you.