Aleksandr Lukashenko visits Minsk National Airport
The modernization of the National Airport Minsk is to be completed in 2014. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko issued the instruction as he visited the airport on 15 April.
Aleksandr Lukashenko praised all the reconstruction works that had been completed in order to welcome guests of the forthcoming ice hockey world championship. Now it is necessary to bring the rest of the airport up to standards. The President underlined it has to be done at a reasonable price.
“The airport’s modernization must be completed this year,” the head of state said. “The buildings and the territory are to be accomplished by the end of the year,” he added.
“Everything should look ideal because people, who fly to Belarus, will look out of the illuminator to see where they are going to land. Therefore, everything has to be beautiful. I want polish before the hockey championship. We have to bring this airport up to standards,” the President said. Aleksandr Lukashenko added that it is a matter of honor for him. “When I became the president, I heard a lot of requests to sell the airport because, they told me, we were not going to use it anyway. In difficult times I had my doubts about the advisability of spending budget money on the airport. But later on I decided it was still a treasure, the nation’s legacy. We are not going to give away anything. Not a single airport,” the head of state said. “And nowadays airports are in demand. And this airport is profitable. It is a symbol of our country. And this year we should do something Belarus deserves. I want people to say that things are clean and accurate in Minsk and in airports,” the President said.
“We should not leave our kids with what we inherited when we started ruling the country. The airport was built in the Soviet time. Later on it turned out it was no good at all. Then we had to struggle to patch it in times when money was in short supply. We followed later with massive efforts to fix the building,” the head of state said. Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that in the next few years the airport will generate profits. It can attract more passengers if the conditions it offers are good. The President stressed it was necessary to think about the future and continue developing the airport.
The enterprise National Airport Minsk comprises two airports at present — one inside Minsk and one outside the city. The latter was commissioned over 30 years ago and is the country’s main airport that handles up to 97% of the passenger and freight traffic. The total area of the passenger terminal is nearly 80,000m2, with 82% of the area (65,000m2) earmarked for reconstruction. By 1 April the airport reconstructed the VIP area and the complex dedicated to aviation operations the ice hockey world championship requires. The total area of the arrival lounges has been increased, additional check-in desks for passenger registration have been opened as well as additional workstations for insurance agents, 11 border control stations, customs control stations. Communications and equipment to sort luggage has been installed.
Thanks to the reconstruction the airport will be able to service up to 5.8 million passengers per annum and about 29,000 passengers per day at its peak capacity. The airport now has two customs control areas that allow servicing up to 1,000 passengers from six aircraft at once. One check-in area for passenger registration with 22 workstations is now available as well. As from 22 February 2013 the Minsk airport office of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry can issue visas to foreigners regardless of whether the departure country has a Belarusian diplomatic mission or not. Thus, the necessary infrastructure to welcome foreign participants and guests of the ice hockey world championship is available.
Aleksandr Lukashenko was informed that over the last few years the number of passengers and the volume of cargoes the airport services have been rising. In 2013 the airport serviced 2.19 million passengers while in January-March 2014 the figure grew by 10%.
Aleksandr Lukashenko was made familiar with how the reconstruction of the passenger terminal proceeds and with the organization of passenger services. The President toured the arrival area (the border checkpoint, the luggage collection area, the customs control station, the arrival and passenger registration areas, the departure area, and the territory around the passenger terminal). The head of state also examined the organization of VIP passenger services. Aleksandr Lukashenko was interested in details. The President was assured that the airport will have no problems with welcoming the guests of the forthcoming ice hockey world championship that will take place in Minsk in May and with welcoming other passengers. Apart from that, the head of state had an opportunity to examine the operation of private and state-run duty-free shops and the comparison did not favor the state company. Aleksandr Lukashenko also reminded the workers about their social responsibility.
“At first sight everything looks normal, dazzling, and beautiful. It is good. But quality and reliability must be also prioritized,” said the head of state.
“I didn’t set out to audit the facility and find any shortcomings. There are other people to do it. But time will tell what has been done right and what is lacking,” the head of state said to sum up results of his visit to the airport.
At the same time the President mentioned that people responsible for drawbacks will have to “answer for their crimes all the way”. “Because nothing new has been invented here. There are very advanced airports in the world and there are average ones. You just have to pick one variant and work on it,” remarked Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“It seems to me you seriously examined all the options, chose the best one and tried to accomplish something with our abilities and conditions in mind,” added the President.
Aleksandr Lukashenko warned the general contractor in charge of the reconstruction — OAO Grodnopromstroy — that the rest of the work must be done as impeccably. “Auditors are aplenty, I get reports about major shortcomings from various sources. Therefore, don’t smear your honor, do a decent job the way you can,” said the head of state. “Later on we will examine everyone’s efforts. We don’t want things going bad the way of Slutsk meat factories and flax factories. Things like that should be stopped in time,” added the President. The general contractor agreed that there had been some shortcomings in construction efforts but they had been fixed since.
Development prospects of the airport were also discussed at the session.
Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that he had instructed to consider the construction of the new runway and the additional terminal a long time ago. “This is the center of Europe. If we offer good conditions, we will have the second runway that will be able to receive Airbus airplanes. We need to look ahead. I do not say that we will be able to do it tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. This should be done within the next five-year period,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko has suggested considering the construction of a second runway at the National Airport Minsk using Belarus’ own resources.
“Sometimes we jump at an investor who offers attractive terms. However, we will pay twice for these favorable terms in the future. So maybe, it will make sense to handle this project on our own,” the head of state said.
“Indeed, a runway is a very serious thing. However, is it really that difficult to build it? Are we going to invent the wheel, to build something new? People have been building these runways for a long time. So let us choose a good project, find one good engineer, give him money and he will supervise this project and tell our engineers what to do and how,” the President noted. “Will we not handle it? Or someone wants to conclude a contract with foreigners in order to make a cut on this contract, or “a commission” as it is called,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“If there is an investor who offers acceptable terms, we need to calculate everything and engage in talks. However, let us approach the matter economically to make sure that after fulfilling the President’s instruction it will not turn out that the shares should not have been sold and the expenses on building a new airport are huge. This should not happen,” the President said. He added that the Minister of Transport and Communications will be held accountable for that.