President partakes in nationwide subbotnik

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On 21 April President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko worked at the aqua park construction site during the National Day of Voluntary Work, Subbotnik.

Minsk 's future aqua park will be Europe’s fifth largest aqua park. The construction of the Minsk aqua park is scheduled for completion in 2013, Minsk Mayor Nikolai Ladutko informed Aleksandr Lukashenko. The aqua park will be located close to Pobeditelei Avenue in an area adjacent to the water storage basin Drozdy.

Apart from the aqua zone with rides, the facility will comprise a spa complex, a thermal complex, a family entertainment center, a restaurant and a fitness center. The aqua park will have a parking lot for 365 cars and a parking garage for 44 bicycles. Nikolai Ladutko said that the aqua park will boast the world’s best amusement rides. Annual proceeds are expected to reach €15 million, including €1.5 million in net profit. The aqua park will be able to welcome 7,800 people a day in summer and 6,700 people a day in winter. In one course the aqua park is designed to welcome 1,986 people in summer and 1,618 people in winter.

There are plans to build an economy class hotel for 200 near the aqua park. President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke in favor of building small guest cottages for visiting families with kids. Aleksandr Lukashenko encouraged implementing the plans as fast as possible along with the construction of other facilities in the compound. Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that it is necessary to accomplish the beach area of the water storage basin Drozdy to welcome Minsk residents and any other visitors.

The President was also informed about the construction of the residential areas Vilensky and Lebyazhy in Minsk, a sports and recreation facility in Tsentralny District, other projects.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, in this five-year period many beautiful houses, residential areas, and other facilities will be built in Minsk.

After hearing out occupational safety instructions, Aleksandr Lukashenko started working on building the foundation of the mechanical floor of the aqua park’s aqua zone.

Teams lead by the heads of the Belarus President Administration and the Belarus President Property Management Directorate, members of the ice hockey team of the head of state are also working at the site. Apart from government executives and sportsmen the teams include representatives of the Komsomol organization, trade unions, students, personnel of the education sphere, mass media.

Half of the money the nationwide voluntary labor day will earn will be spent on preparing summer camps for the summer and on improving their physical infrastructure. The other half will be spent on building new premises of the Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk and on preparing museum exhibits.

The Belarusian head of state also answered reporters' questions.

When asked to comment on mass media reports that Aleksandr Lukashenko allegedly fears protests of workers and therefore instructs the government to resolve problems of the troubled enterprises, the head of state said: “I have nothing to comment involving the word ‘fear’. I am not afraid of anything. I am a decisive man and in principle I have nothing to lose”.

The President remarked that the opinion of the nation was important for him. “If there is one thing I am afraid of, it is the opinion of my people. They are my voters, I value and respect their views. Therefore, if a worker says that things are bad, I respond to it. You know how I respond to it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“I warned everyone before the current five-year term started that we will not carry anyone. I carried everyone for 15 years. They stopped working. So my idea is: if labor productivity is good, you can spend the money to raise salaries. Otherwise, we would have to print money and you know what it can achieve. You felt it a bit during the recent financial and economic crisis. People getting money they have not earned can destroy any enterprise,” the head of state said.

“If people are offended, if an executive is below expectations, if specialists are slacking, I immediately respond to it,” the President added.

As far as troubled enterprises are concerned, they will be reformed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that he had decided to resume sheep breeding in Belarus. There are plans to build a new worsted fabric factory and make woolen products in Belarus.

“I tested the idea using a farm of mine. I have ten sheep. We have sheared them twice already – loads of wool. They are the best sheep in the world and they feel great. Now we will spread the practice onto the entire country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the President, the Minsk motorcycle and bicycle factory will be reformed, too. “I am not going to give away or lose the trademark. We will make a cutting-edge enterprise. It is a great fear that we may lose the brand. My people, my workers, my nation should be able to work, earn their living and feed their kids,” the head of state said.

Journalists also asked the President if the creation of the Single Economic Space will drain qualified workforce from Belarus .

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that he is not afraid of competition on the labor market.

“Free flow of capital and workforce is what the Single Economic Space is all about,” the head of state stressed. "We have an open economy. The country is open, we will not be able to force anyone to stay here. We just have to convince people to stay and work here by creating normal conditions ," Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the government had done a lot to keep the Belarusians working in the country. According to the President, about 1,600 people left the country in Q1 2012 and about 1,900 people arrived in the country. Of those, who left, about 85% left to work in Russia. “Yes, those who left are not bad people, they are very qualified personnel. Therefore, we should do our best to keep our people working here,” the President said.

The President believes that while implementing various projects in Belarus an investor will primarily seek highly qualified specialists and will pay well for their labor.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also said that Belarus is slowly equalizing salaries with neighboring countries.

“We are slowly equalizing salaries. I do not think that construction workers will leave Belarus to work in Russia considering the investment projects we are implementing. I do not want to say they are paid more here than some Russian construction companies can pay. But at present prices in Belarus are five times lower than those in Moscow. It should be taken into account as well. Therefore, we will not stop those who want to try their luck in a foreign land,” the President said.

“I am confident that this year we will level off and will reach roughly the average level of salaries the neighboring countries have,” the President said.

The head of state remarked that the so-called flagships of the Belarusian economy already have rather high salaries. “Nobody gets paid crazy money. But, let us say, oil industry workers get about $800 per month, BelAZ, MAZ, MTZ, mechanical engineering workers get over $500, some get up to $700. It started with $300. Therefore, we are getting closer little by little,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that salaries will be raised by the end of the year. “I feel the economy is working well and we may raise salaries a couple more times this year,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He added that salaries can be raised only if the economy works well and if the labor productivity is high.

“They say that salaries in Russia are 50% higher. But do you understand how these salaries are calculated? There is, let us say, an oligarch with billions of US dollars in his pocket and there is a common peasant that gets paid virtually nothing. Their incomes are piled up and are divided to get an average. Who gets this average salary?” the head of state wondered. The President pointed out that differences in salaries in Belarus are lower. “Over there the difference in salaries between the richest and the poorest is 30 times. Here it is 3 or 4 times. It should be borne in mind,” the President believes. He also urged to take into account the level of prices.

Aleksandr Lukashenko was also asked to comment on the reaction of the European Union on the pardon of two opposition members.

European Union pressure has nothing to do with the pardon of opposition members in Belarus, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“If they had not submitted a pardon petition, they would have continued doing their time. Those, who have not, are doing it. Nobody can pressure me in these matters,” the President said.

The head of state warned: “One more pressure and those babblers, who are released and should be thankful for being treated like that, can land back in jail”.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that deciding on whether pardons should be granted, he had taken into account individual aspects such as the fact one of the former prisoners has a little child while another former prisoner has health problems. “If one of them did not have a child and the other did not have problems with his back (he could not walk in prison, although he could run after he was released), I may have ignored their petitions. But I thought they should be with their families,” according to the head of state. “If they do not stop talking, they will be returned back. No pressure,” the President added. “It is not a thing a president should deal with. We should forget about it. They may have been released but 20,000-30,000 prisoners have not been granted the pardon. Is it fair from the point of view of the president? It is not,” the head of state believes . “In the near future, maybe closer to the Independence Day we may release a series of prisoners, possibly 2,000-3,000. Only those who are now on the way of correcting their behavior as they say,” the head of state said.

“So do not listen to idle talk about some pressure. Any pressure will produce only problems,” the President warned.

“They say they have pressured us to let the ambassadors back. Contrariwise, we told the ambassadors: guys, if you have left the country, stay outside for a while. Now the ambassadors are willing to return. But they have to reverse the situation to save their face,” the head of state said.