Report of First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Matyushevsky

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A key document concerning the liberalization in the economy of Belarus – a draft ordinance “On entrepreneurship development” – has been submitted to Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko for consideration during the working meeting with First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Matyushevsky on 26 September.

“We continue discussing documents, legal acts which will promote the liberalization of our economy,” the head of state remarked.

Apart from the draft ordinance, a draft decree meant to improve licensing regulations has been submitted to the President.

After the working meeting and a detailed discussion of a number of aspects, Aleksandr Lukashenko supported all the proposals. The submitted documents will be signed in the near future.

Uniform minimum requirements

In particular, the draft decree envisages the approval of unified requirements concerning fire safety, sanitary and epidemiological control, environmental protection and animal health. These regulations have been systematized and reduced in number because the existing norms, according to the head of state, are “extremely bulky and unnecessary in the majority of cases.” “They are a big burden for business and distract from the resolution of concrete tasks. Therefore, these documents will provide for a number of regulations, sanitary norms, etc. Various administrative barriers will be reduced,” he said.

The draft decree will provide for a list mandatory regulations for economic operators. The provisions of other technical legal acts concerning the regulations in this field will be recommendatory for economic operators before their abolition.

Predictable tax regulation

The President pointed out the importance of a stable and predictable situation in the tax realm. Plans have been made to ban the introduction of new taxes and prevent the increase in tax rates till 2020. “I think we need to do it. We’ll see what we will have as a result,” he said.

“There are other requirements, including the eradication of excessive administrative barriers. Those who want to launch a business in Belarus should be able to do it immediately or within a month rather than within 1-1.5 years. We do not need time-consuming bureaucracy. This is also envisaged in the documents,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Self-regulation of business

In general, the draft decree is a key document in the package of legal acts. It will radically change the mechanisms of interaction of the state and business. The legal act will minimize the interference of the state in the work of economic operators, strengthen the mechanisms of self-regulation in business and its responsibility for business operations while preserving a necessary level of state control.

Notification procedure for starting business

Apart from the abovementioned norms, plans have been made to introduce a notification procedure for the most widespread types of economic operations. A corresponding list will include consumer and tourism services, trade and public catering, passenger and luggage transportation, agricultural production, manufacture of construction materials, and other activities. According to the Economy Ministry, the share of small and medium-sized business in this segments is about 95%.

To begin work in these fields, it will be enough to submit one notification to the executive committee on a one-stop-shop principle (it will be also possible to send a notification by mail with a delivery confirmation) or using a portal of electronic services. It will be possible to start corresponding economic activities the next day. A notification sender will automatically assume the responsibility for the compliance of business with the legislation.

Eradication of administrative barriers

It is expected that as many administrative barriers involving a complicated and long procedure of getting certificates and other authorization documents as possible will be eradicated.

Besides, the document will introduce administrative responsibility of directors for the normal operation of enterprises. As a result, the document will specify one of the key approaches outlined by the President regarding a minimum interference of the state in the economic activities of companies and a higher personal responsibility of directors.

Improvement of licensing procedure

“I think that the situation is rather good in this field, we have already done a lot. However, businessmen would like to have more freedom, they want us to lift certain administrative procedures. I also agree that if we can make certain steps in this direction, it is better to make them on time. I do not think that we are lagging behind, but it s important,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In accordance with the principle which tells us that only the economic activities associated with possible threats to the state and social interests, environment, people’s lives and health, rights and legal interests of citizens should undergo licensing, the draft decree envisages the abolition of three out of thirty-six kinds of activities subject to licensing and twenty kinds of works and services.

In particular, economic operators will need no licenses for the transportation of passengers (except for international transportation), graphic printing, psychological counseling, legal services (except for real estate services), monitoring of radioactive pollution, protection of workers and their property by legal entities.

Exclusive right of court to terminate licenses

The court will have an exclusive right to terminate and cancel licenses. Aleksandr Lukashenko listened to a detailed report about it and remarked that, on the other hand, it is also inadmissible to overload the judicial system with the functions of other agencies. It was noted that to protect the lives, health, rights and legal interests of people licensing bodies will still have the right to freeze the operation of economic operators until they correct the violations of licensing regulations or until a court proceeding.

Vasily Matyushevsky explained that, as a rule, a concrete business ceases to exist if a license is cancelled. “Therefore, this is a very sensitive issue for entrepreneurs, employees, and the society in general. In order to minimize this considerable risk there should be an adversary procedure when a licensing body should prove certain significant facts before the recall of a license in court,” he said.

Issue of licenses in electronic form

It is envisaged that starting from 1 July 2018 licenses will be issues only in the electronic form. There will be no paper licenses. The draft decree provides for the formation of a single register of licenses containing data on the issue and amending of licenses. All interested bodies will have accesses to this register on the Internet on a free of charge basis.

Joint work with business community

According to Vasily Matyushevsky, a package of documents on liberalization was prepared jointly with the business community. “Its priority is to change the business environment, minimize administrative influence on this process and doing business expenses, to make it as transparent as possible, and, what is especially important, consistent and longstanding,” he said.

Speaking about the future prospects, the first vice premier stressed that the developers of the entire package of documents advocate for keeping basic principles despite it may be necessary to revise certain processes in the future. “However, the basic principles of the documents should remain the same. Because any cycle of business planning embraces 10-15 years. Consequently, all conditions ranging from macroeconomy to regulatory aspects should be predictable,” Vasily Matyushevsky said.

Economic transformation with a focus on IT

The first vide premier added that a package of documents on business liberalization includes one more important document. This is a draft ordinance concerning the development of the Hi-Tech Park.

“The head of state said that, perhaps, it makes sense to revise the title of the document because the new ordinance regulates, first of all, to the process of transformations, digitalization of the economy in general rather than the operation of the Hi-Tech Park. The basic norms which, we hope, will be supported by the head of state should radically change the economic environment,” Vasily Matyushevsky said.