Meeting with senior members of Belarus’ Council of Ministers

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The principles of the state economic policy will remain unchanged; people will always be at the heart of this policy, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a meeting with senior members of the Council of Ministers.

The President informed that he is going to discuss some proposals put forward by the government. These proposals were developed in collaboration with local authorities, law enforcement agencies and other government bodies.

“We will stick to the principles of the state economic policy that we have been shaping for years, no matter how much some might lament calling for changes. Changes are needed, but they are already underway and will continue, therefore life goes on. However if someone wants the changes that will disrupt the ongoing policy, this will never happen. The election is ahead, there will be alternative candidates who will suggest the destruction of the old system and changes; and people will make their choice. We will implement our plans in a consistent and determined manner. These changes will be absolutely deliberate, not revolutionary,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He emphasized that the state will always put people and their interests first. “There are all kinds of people. Some of them demand what the government is not supposed to do. However, we do not have other people and we should listen to the people we have,” the President said.

The participants of the meeting also discussed a draft decree on increasing efficiency of state-run companies. The elimination of mala fide forms of intermediation is expected to contribute to better economic performance of state-owned enterprises. “Many instructions have been given to take measures to improve the competitiveness of the real economic sector and to ensure efficient spending of resources,” the President recalled.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that intermediation services sometimes account for 30-50% of the prime cost of products. “We have reached the point when Belarus-made products are sold to Belarus-based companies through intermediaries. It is not okay,” the head of state emphasized. The President asked how this document will help address this issue and whether it will help save resources that can be re-channeled to increase salaries.

The President also asked the attendees to review import substitution efforts, in particular when it comes to control and inspection. “We need to look into the progress made by respective officials responsible for import substitution,” Aleksandr Lukashenko explained.

Another question raised at the meeting dealt with the cost of housing under construction in Belarus. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a lot has been done in recent years to increase housing construction volumes; entire quarters spring up in cities; new homes are also built in the countryside. At the same time, the cost of housing remains an issue.

“The government has come forward with proposals on how to optimize prices in the housing construction market. Will it really help reduce prices? Are there any flaws and drawbacks in this solution?” the head of state asked.

The President recalled the experiment of the Effective Industrial Constructions Plant that revealed that a developer can do well even with the profit margin of 5%. “The prices are reasonable, the company did not go bankrupt, it is not in the red. At the same time some people tell me that if we go this way, it will give rise to financial manipulations and developers will eventually cease to exist. All of you have homes and your housing is not bad. Do not forget about people in need of housing, we should help. We should make sure they can build their homes at affordable prices,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko asked why other companies cannot operate with the profit margin of 5%. “If they cannot, let them wait in line: we will give them what is left. We will give construction orders to those who can build housing with a 5% profit margin, with smaller costs and lower prices. It does not matter for us if it is a private or a state-owned company. We will determine a budget and a developer should stay within it. Our people are not rich to pay a double price for their housing in order to help fat cats line their pockets,” the President noted.

Waste treatment is under special control of the President. “We should avoid the issues facing neighboring states where people cannot breathe because of numerous landfills and where soil is poisoned by chemicals for decades,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He emphasized that environmental protection is of paramount importance and the health of Belarusians is priceless.

Today this is not only about environmental well-being, the head of state noted. “Developed countries that do not abound in natural resources, just like us, have learned to extract the necessary resources virtually from waste,” the President noted. He asked to  inform him how the draft decree under discussion deals with his instructions to address waste management issues based on the world’s best practices and achievements.

Another important point of the agenda deals with retirement regimes for workers in arduous and hazardous jobs. A proposal was put forward to grant these people the right to claim pension benefits prematurely.  Aleksandr Lukashenko asked whether there are sufficient grounds and resources for that.

The participants of the session also briefly reviewed Belarus’ economic performance in 2019, the current situation in the economy and provision of resources for domestic manufacturers.