Meeting with senior members of Council of Ministers

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko held an extended meeting with senior members of the government on 14 February.

“We have a good tradition of consulting on the most important matters that are brought to the President’s attention. This pertains to decrees or ordinances of the President. The draft documents have been prepared, there are some questions regarding them. I would like to receive clarifying and additional answers. We are set to consider several important economic matters and take the most optimal decisions on them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said opening the meeting.

The draft documents that were presented to the President deal with the expansion of functions of centers that provide services to state-funded organizations, financing of public theaters, a mechanism for incorporating poorly performing agricultural organizations into state-owned enterprises, and support for Minsk Automobile Plant. Aleksandr Lukashenko harshly criticized each of the documents disagreeing with a number of proposals. The head of state pointed out to the superficial approach to preparing important documents, the lack of focus on cost optimization.

A draft decree to expand the functions of the centers that provide services to state-financed organizations was submitted for consideration of the head of state. The government proposes to vest the centers with additional work: to increase the number and expand the list of state-funded organizations served, to give the centers the right to represent the interests of organizations in courts, to act as customers in construction.

However, before hearing a detailed report on the innovations, approving or rejecting them, Aleksandr Lukashenko asked about the background of the issue. The President asked how the work of these institutions is organized and whether the decision to set up such structures was correct in general.

Every state institution used to run their own economic units and accounting services, Finance Minister Yuri Seliverstov explained. However, for various reasons, a decision was made to outsource these services. For centralization purposes, Belarus set up special centers for state-funded budget organizations in 2022. They deal with accounting, proviion, maintenance and other issues. Today, there are 181 such centers under the executive committees in the country. They provide services to more than 9,000 organizations, the minister reported.

"Today, we do not need to have an accountant, a procurement specialist, a lawyer in every school. Now it is the job of the centers that carry out these functions for a different number of organizations," Yuri Seliverstov explained.

The President questioned the effect of these measures. The head of state also questioned the legal side of the issue: the centers seem to exist under the executive committees but are not part of them. It is not completely clear to whom they are subordinate.

"Please schedule me a trip to one of the districts. I will go to one of the districts to see how such centers function," Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Centralization is good. You have centralized their functions and this is good too. But  centralization must be motivated. If you centralized the functions and halved the staff that would be a good thing. God forbid, I uncover at least one thing wrong when I inspect a district executive committee."

The President stressed that these centers should be directly subordinate to the chairman of the executive committee and should not duplicate the functions of other structures, for example, capital construction departments, which are also subordinate to local authorities.

"More than that. We begin to scale up the project that has not yet been fine-tuned. This is a raw document. What we need is a more careful approach to this issue,” the head of state criticized the document. “Please sort it out and then make proposals. These centers must be subordinate to local authorities. Our executive committees are not overburdened. They sometimes do not know what to do to keep busy. Most importantly, how will our innovations, which we are planning, affect the newly included state-funded organizations, especially in the regions? There must be reasonable steps, and these steps must yield results."

Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the State Control Committee to study the work of centers that provide services to state-funded organizations, to monitor how efficient they are. The President Administration shall polish the document from a legal point of view and prescribe all the provisions in as much detail as possible so that no questions arise in the future.