Meeting with Chairman of the Board of Directors of OOO Tabak-Invest Pavel Topuzidis

    Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that it is necessary to promote competition in food and consumer goods trade. It is also essential to provide decent customer service in rural areas. The Belarusian head of state made this statement on 22 July as he met with Chairman of the Board of Directors of OOO Tabak-Invest Pavel Topuzidis to discuss the businessman’s proposals on the promotion of retail trade in Belarus.

    The head of state noted: “I have received your proposals regarding the construction of an entire system of enterprises in Belarus to service our population”. The President spoke in positive terms about the systemic work of Pavel Topuzidis’ business in retail and stressed that the approach should be an example for others to follow. “I don’t see any major problems with what you are suggesting. I think that normal, not small and not large but average retail enterprises, one can even say compact ones, should be developed in Belarus particularly in view of competition considerations. I am rather ready to agree to it”.

    “You are prepared to build up to 130 shopping centers all over the country, several average ones and a couple of major ones. I think it is quite feasible to accomplish in Belarus,” said the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed he was not concerned about the scale of the proposal because Pavel Topuzidis had earned the reputation of an honest businessman.

    “I’d love to see a sufficient number of such businessmen in Belarus who could be beacons and examples of good practice in this or that sphere and the construction of such enterprises,” noted the President.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also said he would like prosperous citizens of Belarus, businessmen to more actively invest in their own country. “We could use more investments and investments from citizens of Belarus at that — the people, who live here, earn money and try to expand their business. I welcome it and you know it. We talked about it a long time ago. It is good that you deliver on your promises,” said the Belarusian leader.

    At the same time the President reminded he had instructed executive bodies to very accurately handle the construction of retail outlets, particularly in Minsk, in order to prevent major retailers from choking convenience stores. “We cannot destroy them. They must exist. At the same time we need as many major trade centers that you and other people are building as necessary. Preventing them from destroying the existing convenience stores is our primary concern,” stressed the head of state.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also believes that competition has a positive impact on trade as it secures reasonable prices.

    “You encourage competition. It is very important for the trade sector and there is a lack of competition now. Competition ensures fair prices,” the Belarusian leader said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about trade in the countryside and small district capitals. In his words, competition can drive prices down in these communities, too. “There are businessmen in Belarus who are ready to take charge of trade in entire regions and rural communities, to reach out to each peasant and make sure that every one of them receives decent customer service. Belkoopsoyuz confronts it vehemently. However, we gave consumer cooperatives time to learn to provide adequate customer service to Belarusian peasants and to set reasonable prices. Indeed, it turns out that products made by peasants are sold in the countryside at higher prices compared to the city,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

    “It is clear that logistics and deliveries cost money. However, we need to look for other solutions in order to avoid raising prices for food staples and clothing in the countryside. This should be regulated by the market. For that competition is needed,” the head of state believes.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that Belarusian retail stores need to step up efforts to promote Belarusian goods. “If Belarus has a product, retailers need to ensure that this product is on display with maximum visibility to the shoppers. Some complain today that we do not have such goods which are available abroad. I ask them if they have foreign currency to buy and sell this product because we take this foreign currency abroad. It shall be borne in mind,” the President said.

    “Perhaps, our export in certain segments is lagging behind the import. But we manufacture this product and it is several times cheaper than the imported product. I am not against imports, but it is also essential to promote our goods,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized.

    “Of course, I will insist on selling Belarusian goods. This is a mild requirement, but we will be more active in this field. You must understand that it is necessary to sell Belarusian goods as well. There are no big problems with foodstuffs, but it is also essential to expand the range of clothes, footwear and other goods,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko also pointed out that the retail industry needs to encourage manufacturers to make more popular goods. “On the other hand, I would like you to encourage our light industry to produce goods which are in demand with customers,” the Belarusian leader added.