Aleksandr Lukashenko visits BSUIR

    Belarus will draw special attention to the development of the IT sector as it is one of the most promising industries on the global market. President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement as he paid a visit to the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics (BSUIR) on 21 December.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko visited the Computer Systems and Networks Department, met with students and lecturers, answered pressing questions.

    The Computer Systems and Networks Department is one of the leading training centers for IT specialists in Belarus. The department operates eleven training and research labs founded jointly with IBA, EPAM, Itransition, etc. The department has six chairs and four international education centers.

    According to the year 2010 poll of Hi-Tech Park resident companies, the Computer Systems and Networks Department of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics is the number one department in the top ten departments of Belarusian universities, which graduates are sought after by the Hi-Tech Park.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko got familiar with the education process at the department and with the operation of the joint training and research center BSUIR-INTES – Intellectual Technologies and Systems.

    The Belarus President was informed about the state and prospects of the university’s development.

    In the past few years the material and technical support available to the university that trains students in 36 professions has improved considerably. According to BSUIR Rector Mikhail Batura, modern technologies had been assimilated to enable better quality of education.

    In 2011 the university was awarded the prize of the Belarusian government for the introduction of effective methods of quality management and provision of competitive services using these methods.

    In 2012-2013 academic year BSUIR has over 15,800 students, 609 candidates for master’s degree, 303 postgraduate students, and five doctoral candidates. Some 769 people undergo refresher courses and advanced training. In 2009 BSUIR became the first technical university in Belarus which have English-language curriculum.

    Good ties have been established recently between the university and the production sector. Many BSUIR research products are implemented by the production sector, work is in progress to optimize the training time. According to the BSUIR Rector, specialists can be trained within four years instead of five years.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed concern over student fees, which are pretty high in Belarus.

    President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko has ordered to grapple with high tuition fees. The head of state said that the tuition fees for the first and second years at university should be reasonably low. Speaking about the tuition costs for senior university students, the President said: “We will see”.

    The President spoke about the training of architectural designers. “It is the most sensitive point in civil engineering,” the President said. In his words, practically everyone, who is involved in civil engineering, faces the problem of having to pay incommensurable sums for design services. “Something must be done about design institutes and groups,” the head of state said. Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the solution to the problem will be found within the next few months.

    “We need new-generation personnel in this industry,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    BSUIR Rector Mikhail Batura informed Aleksandr Lukashenko that the university has an acute shortage of personnel. Every year about 60 graduates start working for the university as their first mandatory job assignment. However, later on some of them find employment in private business. The university would like to use some of the sponsor aid for the financial support of the employees but is disallowed to do it at the moment.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko agreed to allow universities to manage sponsor money at their own discretion. “Let’s do it for universities in the first phase. Let’s add a paragraph on encouraging specialists of universities to the decree. There is nothing to be afraid: smart people work here, they are capable of deciding where the money should be spent,” the head of state said.

    Yet the President believes that the current procedure for distributing sponsor aid should be retained for other organizations: “No need to make changes for other organizations for now. They should spend sponsor money on the development of the physical infrastructure”.

    “We had things in disarray in this sphere once. The schemes used to be criminalized, with sponsor aid shared off the books and so on. Therefore, I had to enforce strict regulations. For instance, sponsor aid cannot be rendered by a state-run company without the permission of the minister or a superior official,” the head of state reminded. “And we have managed to systematize and straighten out the entire structure of sponsor aid”.

    “Let’s make an exception for universities in this regard,” the President said.

    “Consider whether the matter poses a problem somewhere else, too. Various relevant requests should be combined into a single legal act. And then let’s make a decision without delays, in January,” the head of state said.

    Mikhail Batura informed Aleksandr Lukashenko that the university needs a family dormitory for young university academic staff.

    “Show me a good and functional project. We will erect it in a good place, somewhere downtown as the dormitory will be constructed for all the universities of the capital,” the head of state said. He added that it would be service housing. “It will be the first housing of the kind for young teachers. I believe it will make a good perk for young specialists,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

    “Make your proposals. We will find resources to build it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

    The President also answered questions of BSUIR students.

    One of the students asked about stability of the national currency and possible devaluation after the New Year.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko said that there is no objective need in Belarus to devalue the national currency. In his words, “The situation is being aggravated and you know who is doing it”.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the exchange rate is not artificially restrained in Belarus. “As I promised, this year we have been using a market-shaped exchange rate. If there is a large demand, foreign currency costs more, if there is no demand, the National Bank buys foreign currency,” the Belarusian head of state said.

    The President said that Chairperson of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Nadezhda Yermakova informed him about the currency market situation the day before. In particular, the situation is very good at the currency exchange, economic operators sell more foreign currency than they buy. The situation is slightly different as far as the population is concerned. “People buy and sell and yet buy a bit more,” said the head of state. In his opinion, the situation will slightly change after the New Year and people will once again start selling foreign currency.

    “There are many rumors running around and they contradict each other: they talk about either the end of the world or the need to buy US dollars. Who needs dollars in the afterlife?” the head of state wondered.

    “We don’t expect any devaluation of the national currency as from 1 January,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko. “Even if we had to spend $1 billion to support the currency exchange rate, we would do it,” the President said. “We have accumulated enough currency to maintain the exchange rate”. The head of state remarked that Belarus’ gold and foreign exchange reserves now exceed $8 billion. “They have never been that large. We haven’t had to sell gold at all”.

    “This is why, there is no need to buy foreign currency now because you will have to sell it after the New Year. But if people want to buy it, they may go ahead. There is enough foreign currency now,” the President said.

    Another issue discussed at the meeting was the allocation of international loans to Belarus.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Russia may grant a $2 billion loan to Belarus for the modernization of enterprises. The loan was discussed during his recent visit to Russia. “Negotiations with the government of Russia and the President of Russia on a great deal of matters took place on 18-19 December,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “I told them that we should help each other in a crisis if we are brothers. We could use a couple of billion in USD loans in order to modernize our enterprises”.

    “I said that the answer could wait. They said it was okay, give us a concrete list of enterprises, preferably joint ventures. It means they give money to modernize Belarusian companies and to create joint ventures. I said it was a good idea but there is more than that. We need $1 billion as well for something other than joint ventures,” the head of state said.

    According to the President, no negative answer has been given. “Contrariwise, they said they would think about it and would help with it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

    The President underlined that Belarus has to modernize enterprises in order to keep up. “Russia has entered the WTO and we are virtually part of the organization, too because we ship up to half of the exports to the Russian market. We virtually operate in conditions of the World Trade Organization. We are going to face the toughest competition and will not be able to avoid modernization,” believes the head of state. He added that modernization should rely on proprietary resources to minimize external dependence. “This is why I put pressure on ministers and specialists, individual heads of enterprises,” he added.

    Moreover, China has granted a $1 billion untied loan to Belarus.

    “I was informed yesterday that once again the Chinese have lent us over $1 billion as an untied loan for projects inside the country. The loan is affordable,” the head of state said. In his words, at present Belarus has many projects like that.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the loans allocated to Belarus is nothing in comparison with how much money the country invests in the domestic economy. “Money from the state budget, from private and state-run enterprises is way bigger than what we get from loans. Don’t think we live at the expense of loans only,” the President added.

    The head of state remarked that borrowing is a normal practice.

    On of the students asked why the European Union criticizes Belarus in stead of resolving its internal problems.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko agreed that the EU should resolve its own issues before it starts criticizing Belarus.

    The head of state believes that the European Union is telling Belarus what to do in an effort to draw people’s attention away from the pressing problems in the EU. The EU is trying to show that things are bad in other countries and the EU is dealing with them. “I often ask a question: does Belarus cause you any problems? No, no problems. We catch thousands of migrants, detain tonnes of drugs. When they started stifling us too hard, I told our border guards: why should we catch them? Belarus is not their final destination, let them go where they want. And we started turning a blind eye on certain things. Now Lithuania, Poland and other countries have migrant camps overcrowded with people. They ask us every day: let us talk, fix the problem, and so on. I say, no, guys, I will not protect you until you calm down and stop using sanctions,” the President said.

    “There is another option – pay money for that. It costs a lot. We need to maintain the border, the military, and border guards. It comes to millions of dollars. You pay – we catch them, you do not pay – see you later,” the President said. “You see that not only they are telling us what to do, but we also started teaching them to respect and appreciate us and to understand that we do not cause any trouble for Europe, we do only good things. We have never threatened anyone, we have not even considered that, we do not take anything away from anyone,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

    “Fix the problems in Greece, Portugal, partly in Italy and other places, and then you can criticize us,” the President said.

    BSUIR students expressed concern that DUI accidents have become more frequent recently.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that he was a vocal advocate of severe punishment for DUI accidents. “If you cause an accident or, what even worse, a death of another person while driving under the influence, you should answer for it to the maximum,” the head of state said.

    “I am for taking the vehicle away in such cases and send the driver to jail for some 15-25 years,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “I am convinced that such tough measures will change the attitude in the country,” the President said. The head of state cited Asian countries as an example of severe punishment for such crimes. He added, however, that such rules are inadmissible for Belarus.

    “Strict rules, high responsibility and tough punishment will bring order in this area,” the head of state is confident.

    “Let us decide what punishment should be for vehicle manslaughter while driving under the influence. Very soon I will get proposals, but I am a vocal advocate for the most severe punishment in such cases,” the President noted.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also believes that drivers’ responsibility should be enhanced in regard to other violations as well. “Drivers must clean snow from their car parking places. Otherwise you car will be taken to the impound yard and you will be fined,” the head of state said. “It should be made systemic and people will become more responsible,” the leader stressed.

    When asked about whether the modern Belarusian society relies on liberal, democratic, or conservative values, the President said: “There is nothing that exists in its pure form in life. You cannot be a pure democrat, a liberal, or a conservative”.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, liberalism is sometimes misunderstood and is actually interpreted as the total absence of responsibility combined with disregard for other people’s interests. “It has been turned upside down. We don’t need a liberalism like that. We need a genuine liberalism,” the President stressed

    “Democracy means the rule of the people. Democracy can be seen at its best during parliamentary or presidential elections. Go ahead and vote,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that in the modern world the notion of liberalism and democracy is often abused in favor of individual forces. Among other things events in Iraq, Libya, and other countries testify to that. “It has been done by liberal democratic states, the pillars of democracy,” the President noted.

    He stressed that “in Belarus dictatorship is impossible at all, there is no resources to force one’s will”. In turn, for instance, the USA has a powerful economy, foreign currency instruments, nuclear weapons and other armaments. “So they go and dictate [their will] to the entire world,” the head of state said.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus tries to pursue an independent policy: “We live in our own country, in our own part of land”.

    Speaking about the development path, the President remarked that the Belarusian state will be built on principles of liberalism, democracy, and sound conservatism.

    According to the President, the principle of Belarus’ independence is inviolable. “Everyone should understand that Belarus is forever. It is ours, it will never be owned by Poland, Russia, Americans or Germans. All our partners have to learn to accept it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko talked about cooperation in various industries with Venezuela and other Latin American countries, prospects to advance into markets of Asia, Africa, Australia and Oceania.

    Speaking about cooperation with China, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that China is a country to learn from. In his words, building new things on top of old ones is the key point in Chinese experience. “Breaking nothing is the main thing from the Chinese experience,” the head of state emphasized.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko visited China the first time when he was a member of the parliament. Upon returning from China, he said it was the country Belarus should learn from. The President is convinced that Chinese experience is important for Belarus and the country actively uses this experience taking into account local peculiarities.

    The President reminded that when Belarus was experiencing some financial problems he requested China’s leadership to send Central Bank specialists to analyze the situation and say what was being done right and what not. “After the analysis the Chinese bankers said that Belarus lacked gold and foreign exchange reserves and we started focusing on it,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also remarked that one of his first official visits as the president of Belarus was a visit to China.

    The Chinese are very smart, hardworking, and wise people, who build their present without rejecting the past, the head of state stressed.

    The President was asked about the development of IT sector in Belarus.

    The head of state noted that the real consequences of the IT development can be assessed only after some time. He mentioned nuclear technologies as an example. Although humankind benefited from nuclear technologies in many ways, these technologies brought a lot of damage, including when they were used to create nuclear weapons. “I would not like the same to happen with information technologies. Look how many revolutions were staged and how much social turmoil was instigated with the help of the Internet. The situation did not get better after that,” the President said.

    “I would like this to be used only in the interests of the entire humankind,” the head of state emphasized.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the Internet is both “the greatest achievement of the mankind and a huge trash can”. “You can find everything there. The terrorists responsible for the metro blast also started from the Internet. When we suggest banning something in the Internet, many people object, especially from abroad,” the President said.

    At the same time, Belarus will develop Internet traffic exchange services. Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that Belarus fails to take advantage of its transit opportunities to earn good money. “I have recently signed a decree to address the issue, improve traffic services and set up respective centers,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that it would be better if Belarus promoted the IT sector on its own, without involving many foreign companies. “I would not want foreign investors in this industry, because the industry offers great opportunities for us and a lot of money. I would like this industry to be promoted by our people, either by the authorities or individuals. There are many foreigners who would like to get involved in this industry. If they do it, they will take all the profits away from the country,” the President said. He mentioned security considerations, among other reasons; after all, the networks will be used not only by individual citizens, but also ministries and government agencies, educational institutions and so on.

    When asked about ways to economize in 2013 which had been declared the Year of Frugality in Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the state will not economize on people’s earnings. “You think we are going to economize on you, on people’s earnings. We won’t. We will economize to make you richer,” the head of state stressed.

    The President remarked that about 70% of the electricity is consumed by industrial enterprises and they are the primary reserves for economizing and reducing production costs. “If we save at least 1%, can you imagine how many billions of rubles we will get and will be able to spend on modernizing enterprises and paying salaries to people? It is the conceptual idea behind this frugality and economy,” the head of state stressed.

    He remarked that in turn people should think about ways to economize. “I am not saying that you should turn off your refrigerator or the TV set. You can use them, even three TV sets and five refrigerators but keep in mind that you will have to pay for it”.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the most important thing is to keep the growth of salaries on par with productivity gains. “A man should not get the money he has not earned. It is necessary to create conditions for working people to get their due. It is my key principle. The richer the people are, the richer the state is,” the President said.

    The President reminded that the average salary in Belarus has to be $500 by the end of the year due to the real capabilities of the national economy. “It is possible to earn good money in Belarus today,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “I am in favor of people working, earning money and the more the better. If people suffer from the lack of money, it is primarily me, the president, who feels the pain”.

    Talking to students, the head of state remarked that the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus will save a lot of money that Belarus now has to spend to import energy resources. While in 2012 Belarus consumed about 22 billion cubic meters of natural gas, the country will be able to import 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas less once the nuclear power plant is commissioned.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus may build a second nuclear power plant in the future. “I’d love to build a second nuclear power plant in Belarus,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. Upon learning it the Russians said they were ready to build a third power-generating unit for the nuclear power plant, which is under construction now. For now there are plans to build two power-generating units there.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined the importance of building the nuclear power plant in Belarus. “The nuclear station, nano, bio and information technologies are what we can do and we are starting to do it,” he stressed.

    The President also said about the agreement with Russia about the delivery of 23 million tonnes of oil in 2013. “We have come to terms with the Russians about the delivery of 23 million tones. We will get oil without problems ,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.