Meeting with members of the Council of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus

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The government should be honest, open, and accessible to all citizens, President of the republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with members of the Council of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus on 29 September.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the meeting with the MPs was held prior to the opening of the fifth session of the fifth-convocation House of Representatives of the National Assembly. The President remarked that the Parliament’s work had allowed creating stable lawmaking traditions, securing the uniformity of the legal base, and raising the legal awareness of the society. Over the last two years members of the current-convocation Parliament adopted nearly 200 legal acts that meet interests of the Belarusian people. Apart from that, international efforts of the Parliament have gone up considerably, with a lot of important international documents ratified.

“You are experienced, respected, responsible people with an active life stance, a true manpower reserve. This is why some Parliamentarians have already been appointed to responsible offices, including top government jobs. Your productive work will be taken into account as personnel decisions are made in the future, too,” the head of state said.

The President remarked that a lot of work, including on the improvement of legislation, is ahead of the MPs.

Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that economy modernization should be the priority area of legislative efforts. “Many people say that modernization is not an option, no money is available for it and so on. But we cannot postpone modernization and improvement of our enterprises till tomorrow. If we fail to replace an obsolete machine tool today with a new one that makes competitive products, then market diversification and the competitive ability on international markets go out of the window. We will not be able to sell products made using old machine tools,” the President noted. “Therefore, modernization is a must if we want to live on, to compete and sell our products,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the 2015 budget bill is to be passed in the near future. “As far as I can understand, the government and the parliament are working on the bill as we agreed. I would very much like us to seriously approach this bill. We cannot afford a wasteful budget. We have no money to spare. We have to count every cent,” the head of state said.

The President noted that starting from 2015 the Belarusian economy will operate in conditions of the Eurasian Economic Union. “We will have to work on ratifying the relevant international agreements maybe even soon, these days. Your task is to use all the Parliamentary instruments to contribute to the formation of the legal base of the Eurasian Economic Union while safeguarding our interests,” the head of state stressed.

“If you see that some error in the preparation of a certain document has been committed and the document is important, please, inform me among other ones and do not stop at anything to protect the interests of the Belarusian state,” the President remarked. He added that proposals and remarks of the MPs will always be supported.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that members of the Parliament should find healthy balance between stable laws and dynamic life. “We can wish a law to last for centuries but life changes a lot, particularly in Belarus and particularly lately. Do not hurry to correct laws and generate multiple amendments. At the same time topical social and economic issues have to be discussed by the Parliament without any foot-dragging,” the President noted.

The head of state believes that as bills are processed by relevant commissions, MPs have to understand how the law will be adopted and implemented. “Our legal framework is more or less ready. It is time to make laws that apart from meeting needs of the present day are verified from the point of view of their practical value,” the President said. “The law should not use multiple references to shift the job of resolving possible problems in the application of the law to the central government or local executives” he added.

Apart from that, every legal act has to be understandable and intelligible not only for lawyers but members of the general public, too.

“Your practical experience as industrialists, agrarians, engineers, doctors, teachers, sportsmen, representatives of many other professions as well as close ties with voters should be the foundation for preparing the legal acts that meet needs of our society,” the head of state said.

The President emphasized that members of the parliament should not stay away from the campaign meant to eradicate red-tape practices. “If you see a problem that common citizens face and they are unable to overcome bureaucratic barriers, help solve the problem,” the head of state said. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that as a former MP he knows that members of the Parliament can feel the mood of people by directly working with people, can see long-standing problems and shortcomings in the regions, can use reserves. “The government should be honest, open, and accessible to all citizens,” the President stressed.

According to the head of state, the Parliament is an ideal platform for a sincere public dialogue about the most acute topics. “Therefore, the practice of Parliament hearings should be wider implemented. Long-standing problems should be discussed at meetings with members of the government. You should make speeches in mass media and use the Internet more actively,” the President believes.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also remarked that every member of the House of Representatives should try to help their colleagues, members of municipal councils of deputies, should put forward proposals, offer advice and support.

Addressing the MPs, who were present at the meeting, the President remarked he would like to hear an objective evaluation of the operation of the House of Representatives at present: “Is there anything that impedes the full-value operation of the Parliament? Are there any functions of people’s deputies that are not realized in full or are not needed at all? What prospects regarding the development of Parliamentary activities do you see? How does the work of the central government, municipal government agencies, and heads of enterprises justify expectations of people?” Aleksandr Lukashenko went on saying he was ready to hear about all the problems that needed a solution and expected proposals that had been thought through and balanced, proposals that meet requirements of the time and interests of citizens. He spoke against proposals that cared for specific agencies only.

The MPs told the President about the main areas of focus of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus in the forthcoming period. Participants of the meeting drew special attention to the legislative regulation of the social sector, economic development of the country, use of the parliamentary diplomacy to enhance cooperation of Belarus with other countries and international organizations.

In their speeches parliamentarians raised a number of topical issues. In turn, the head of state gave detailed and sincere responses. The Parliament’s work on the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty was one of them.

“We understand all the advantages of economic integration, provided national interests are observed unconditionally. At the same time we have learned from mass media that the Russian Federation intends to amend its taxation regulations for the oil industry. Specialists believe that if the amendments are enacted, they will reduce revenues of Belarus’ state budget, worsening the financial and economic situation at Belarusian oil-processing enterprises,” Chairman of the House of Representatives Vladimir Andreichenko said.

“You have raised a very important issue concerning the so-called tax maneuver on the part of the Russian Federation. It is tied to the ratification of our treaty,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state reminded that at the time of signing of the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty he was saying that Belarus’ accession to the organization has to benefit the state and the nation. “We have to gain more than we have today by doing so. I do not mean any money from Russia and so on. We should take steps that benefit us. Otherwise, why would we do it?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

According to the President, Russia’s tax move will entail considerable financial losses for Belarus. “We have sent a team of specialists led by Vladimir Semashko, who is in the relevant negotiations. If the Russian Federation makes this step, it will become a very large problem for the operation of the current union. First, because we agreed on different things. Second, if some actions are taken in one area, then compensation is in order in another area. It is a considerable sum of money that we cannot afford losing,” the Belarusian leader underlined.

“If we are rebuked, then let us do the following. We set out to create the Customs Union, then the Eurasian Union. Let us build it using the classic principle. We lose something, Russia and Kazakhstan lose something. But this organization in its classic way does not tolerate any exemptions and restrictions,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “It is understandable that it is unprofitable for someone. Many things are unprofitable for someone. But we have agreed on these terms and they must be observed. It is our view,” he added.

In his speech chairman of the permanent commission of the House of Representatives for education, culture and science Gennady Palchik focused on the continuation of the socially-oriented policy of the state. Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the relevant policy had not changed, but stressed that citizens should be encouraged to rely on their own capabilities more.

“Just like you I am very interested in supporting the population. But I publicly and somewhat harshly draw attention to the fact that a state is not created in order to feed someone who does not want to work for their own good,” the President said. “Our people can easily live good lives. Those who want. It is necessary to gradually encourage Belarusians to think that the state will help but they are better off counting on their own resources,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also noted that expecting a large increase in salaries is not a good idea in the present situation. “Keep in mind that Belarus is not in a good situation right now due to the prolonged economic crisis. It is not even a crisis. Individual countries bend the entire world to resolve certain problems. Certainly, it is difficult for us to resist. We have to adapt and survive in this situation. This is why we cannot talk about a massive increase in salaries. We have to calmly live through this period. Although we are trying to help people a bit in this regard,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also raised the issue of the utilities cost for the population. “The commission has worked. In the near future we will study the results. But we have seen that if we calculate the prime cost of utility services we will find out that the population covers not 20% or 30% of the cost, but even more than 50%,” the Belarusian leader noted.

According to the President, the situation in secondary education is being looked into. As an example Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned the secondary school curriculum that allocates more hours for studying Russian and even English than Belarusian. “I agree that practically all of us speak Russian. But frankly speaking, at home, in our everyday lives we speak Belarusian less. Maybe, we should give one hour in favor of studying Belarusian in school over English?” the head of state wondered.

The President was also dissatisfied with the inclusion of certain literature works in the school curriculum.

“Why cannot we bring this area in order? The work of the Education Ministry is awful! There is too much criticism,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The President does not deem it necessary to make drastic changes in education. It is needed to make some improvements. “The education sector shall be optimized,” he said.

During the meeting chairperson of the budget and finance commission of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly Lyudmila Dobrynina pointed out the need to ease housing privatization terms for pensioners and low-income families.

“I cannot say I know all the intricacies of the housing privatization problem but I get reports. I have instructed the government to find a compromise if possible. Freeloading is the only thing that is out of the question. But the terms have to be affordable for people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

As for the situation on the food market, the President said that there are no threats for the domestic market.

“We do not have the problem and will not have. There will be enough food. As far as prices are concerned, I have given the relevant instructions and we are keeping an eye on the situation. We will keep our nation supplied with food,” the head of state assured.

At the same time, the President deems it necessary to more accurately approach the matter of creating additional installations to process agricultural products because the capacity may become redundant if Russia lifts the food import embargo.

Chairman of the permanent commission of the House of Representatives for international affairs Nikolai Samoseiko told Aleksandr Lukashenko about the international activities of MPs. He suggested revising the issue of restoring the status of an associate member in PACE for the Belarusian Parliament. In his opinion, it will allow using parliamentary diplomacy to promote national interests and enhance bilateral contacts.

Aleksandr Lukashenko supported the proposal but stressed that in any case it is necessary to strictly follow Belarus’ position. “We have our own position. We must adhere to it and we cannot hesitate,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Speaking about international contacts in general, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus is respected for its predictable policy and keeping of promises. In his opinion, cooperation with China is a good example. “They like our stability in relations. If we start to wobble or, God forbid, say one thing and do another, we will lose face. The algorithm of our behavior on the international arena is hard won, and we must go this way whether others like it or not,” the President said.