Meeting with EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti

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I hope that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will provide active support to the development of the small and medium-sized business in Belarus, President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti on 14 September.

Belarus and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have been cooperating for many years. “They say that dialogue is a messenger of good big things. But in this case our dialogue is a messenger and continuation of affairs at the same time. Over the years of work, you have invested about $2 billion in Belarus. This is huge money. It is very good (and I appreciate it very much) that this money works on people directly, it is connected with the Belarusian people. You invest in the sectors providing services to our population,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President said that Belarus and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have a shared goal, which is the efficient use of state-owned assets. The President stressed that the EBRD knows Belarus’ approaches to privatization processes. “We have very serious and careful approaches to the sale of state-owned assets. At the same time, we cooperate with you, the company advocating for more active privatization of state–owned assets. I think that our cautious attitude to the privatization of state-owned assets and your main goal – more active privatization – that seem to be contradictory processes enrich each other in real life,” the Belarusian leader said. “We are learning a lot from you, you have big experience. Accumulating this experience, you see a rational kernel in Belarusian approaches concerning the sale of state-owned assets. We have a shared goal, which is the efficient use of state-owned assets,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the sides cooperate in many fields. Belarus also hopes for the EBRD’s active support of the small and medium-sized business. “We decided to pay particular attention to this avenue of economic development in our country. This five-year period will be focused on the promotion of business ideas of people, small teams, give additional dynamics to the human potential,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Having stability, security and governability in the country, we would like to give more freedom to enterprising people for self-fulfillment, first of all, in the manufacturing and services sectors. We strongly hope for your support.”

The President urged to pay more attention to the development of infrastructure which serves the country and also the whole continent. “It so happened that Belarus has become the most attractive, stable and secure territory for Europeans and Asians. People, goods, cargo, services move across the territory of Belarus. “These are hundreds of millions of tonnes of cargo alone. We have good infrastructure and for the time being it has been handling these flows well. But we must think of raising its level to the highest European standards,” the head of state said.

The President recalled that the EBRD has already invested in the development of the road network in Belarus, and the state is grateful to the Bank for this. But this is not sufficient, the President believes. Talks are underway to build a wider highway in southern Belarus “to intercept the southern flow from China, Central Asia, Russia and redirect it through the southern part, through Gomel to Brest and on to Europe. We are ready to provide this service. I am saying this for the Europeans to understand that by providing some support to us, you do us good, of course. But it is a two-way process. It benefits Europe too. We would like you to take all this into consideration as we engage in talks on various projects,” the President said.

Next year Belarus will be ready to complete the Grodno highway which is being built with the help of the EBRD. “If everything goes well, we would be able to redeploy our capacities for the construction of the south corridor which bears high importance for Europe today. We are ready to provide services that will be cheaper than those of any European or Asian company,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The Belarusian side is also ready to discuss other projects, including in the banking sector, green energy, water resources, and waste processing.

Suma Chakrabarti, in turn, remarked that Belarus and the EBRD have made serious progress in joint work. “These changes would be impossible without your management of these processes,” he said.

The participants of the meeting agreed that the cooperation of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has reached a strategic level. It means that the sides are going to deepen cooperation. In particular, they will work out a roadmap to develop cooperation.