Sixth special session of House of Representatives of Belarus’ National Assembly

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On 15 January President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko took part in the sixth special session of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus of the fifth convocation and introduced new Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov to the MPs.

The head of state believes that Andrei Kobyakov will organize the work and ensure the systematic and comprehensive character of the Council of Ministers’ decisions. Apart from the new prime minister, the President appointed new senior officials in the government.

Aleksandr Lukashenko expects that the new government will put forward fresh ideas for the balanced development of the economy and improvement of the wellbeing of the nation.

“First of all, the government should be a collegiate body with ministers acting as the main link. The main area of responsibility of a minister in the manufacturing industry is to create the conditions for industrial enterprises, in agriculture for agricultural organizations, in education for schools, vocational schools and universities, in healthcare for hospitals and so on. The areas of responsibility have been defined. We need to act,” the head of state said.

"The biggest task for the prime minister is to coordinate the work. Simply put, he should organize the work in such a way so that a deputy prime minister could not act in the same old way and give production guidelines to ministers thus tying them hand and foot, depriving them of a possibility to act independently,” the President believes.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that on his instructions the government is preparing necessary changes to the regulatory framework. "I want them to present these changes soon. We have no time and need to act fast,” the head of state said.

He also stressed: "The decisions of a minister should be implemented immediately. Any decision that he takes is legitimate. In short, the minister cannot say, when reporting to Parliament or President, that he needed more powers or some legal framework.”

The head of state remarked that the work of the government should rely on a number of simple principles, namely initiative, equality of all forms of ownership, noninterference in fair competition, openness (especially in the development of strategic documents), division of functions of the owner and the regulator in the operation of the organization with the state share.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also stressed that the government should not hold any excessive meetings and sessions. “This is how the work should be organized in the entire power vertical, from district and oblast administrations to national authorities. We need to stop holding countless sessions, delivering numerous reports must focus on the main thing. It is essential to make decisions promptly, be proactive and take responsibility,” the head of state said.

The President outlined the key objectives for the government and local authorities.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that it is needed to stabilize the economy and also create the conditions for sustainable development of the country through increased productivity, efficient use of state property, stimulation of business activity and initiative of citizens.

The head of state reminded that in H2 2014 Belarus encountered the external challenges no one could predict at the beginning of the year. "The sanctions, counter-sanctions, the parade of devaluations of national currencies in the neighboring countries, low demand and the collapse of world oil prices, the war in Ukraine and a number of other negative factors. Belarus’ open economy reacts painfully to the consequences of such events, "the Belarusian leader said.

"The economic growth recipes have been identified: cost saving and investment. There are no other recipes. Enterprises should put the issues of financial health at the forefront," the head of state believes.

He reminded that this year Belarus will apply new approaches to the provision of state support for the economy. According to the President, the available resources will be allocated solely for the development priorities. "The main principles include a competitive approach, equal access, project payback period and the responsibility for achieving the stated parameters,” Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined.

The main thing in taxation is to continue the work on improvement of the tax system. It should be simple, transparent and cost-effective. There are some opportunities here, and these issues will be addressed at the meeting in the President’s office.

Decisive measures are needed to confront scroungers and make everyone understand that their wellbeing depends on them, the President said.

“Last year we managed to put an end to the situation when salaries grew faster than labor productivity. We should keep it up. Each ruble should be earned. The government should consolidate on the progress made,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that number one priority for all government agencies is the diversification of sales markets, because the dependence on only one market makes the economy vulnerable. The President demanded that the government and the Foreign Ministry should look for new markets and create comfortable conditions for domestic companies operating outside Belarus. The companies should promptly respond to market trends and produce relevant products that generate real profits.

“If we manage to do it, we will be protected in all the circumstances,” the head of state said.

“In this complicated period we can and must rely on ourselves. It will be good if someone from outside can help us. But we cannot count on the West, the East, Russia, Ukraine, or anyone else. We must use our own resources. There are all necessary conditions for it,” he said.

“If we manage to diversify export (in relation to the share of export to Russia) and redirect products to other markets, we will avoid collapses in the economy and finance. Therefore, the diversification of export is number one priority,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

The President also noted that this process had been already launched. In particular, members of the government travel abroad, conclude agreements on the sale of Belarusian products.

In his opinion, it is essential to study the situation on the market and make prompt decisions.

Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to ramp up work on foreign markets, especially taking into account friendly relations with other foreign states. “The authority of Belarus is rather high. Belarus has reliable friends in China, India, Iran, Arab and African countries, Latin America. There has been certain progress in relations with the United States. Let’s use this advantage to promote the export of products which we cannot sell on traditional markets, namely Russia and Ukraine, due to existing tendencies,” the President stressed.

Speaking about the Belarusian-Russian relations, the head of state noted: “No one will replace Russia for us. When we talk to the West, the European Union, the United States and other countries we ask them if they can replace Russia for us. No. Then why do they want to pull us into it? On the example of brotherly Ukraine we have already seen that the consequences can be the gravest.”

Having established versatile relations with the Russian Federation, Belarus will continue cooperation with this country as with a very close, sister nation, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus has close historical and economic ties with Russia. Russia has always been ready to lend a shoulder to Belarus in any difficult situation. However, certain minor problems emerge sometimes, the President said. He emphasized that Belarus always talk openly and has never betrayed Russia.

The head of state noted that Belarus will continue cooperating with Russia and at the same time will seek better relations with the USA and the EU countries. He pointed out that Belarus’ trade with the EU and the USA is considerable. “Why should we refuse to cooperate with them? Our relations with the West are a bit different. But we need to build them up. The fact that Belarus is pursuing better relations with the USA and the EU should not worry anyone, either in Belarus or in Russia,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. At the same time he said that he understands foreign countries will be watching the presidential election in Belarus.

The head of state emphasized that the election will be fair and held in accordance with the Constitution which does not contradict the international standards.

“They say Belarus should be made to hold its elections in compliance with the international standards. Calm down. The elections in Belarus will be entirely fair, based on the Constitution,” the head of state said. “I have repeatedly stated that the election date will not depend on the political environment or other circumstances. Some say that autumn will be difficult and spring will be the right time in order to get more votes,” the Belarusian leader added. The President assured the participants of the meeting that there was no need for this. “If people trust us, they will support us even in the most turbulent times. There will be no such times in Belarus however. I assure you we will do everything we can to mitigate the consequences of all the troubles which we did not create,” the President of Belarus stressed.

Speaking about Belarus, chairmanship in the Eurasian Economic Union, Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed the government to consistently work to promote Eurasian integration while aggressively and preemptively defending the national interests.

“There are no smoothly running operation mechanisms on the common market of the Eurasian Economic Union yet. Exemptions and restrictions are still there. The agreements reached are not implemented in full. Some member states pass outrageous unilateral decisions disregarding the agreements,” the head of state said. “We should not miss potential opportunities and we should occupy lucrative market niches,” he added.

“We need to consistently work on all the levels to promote the equality of all the members within the union, to remove exemptions and restrictions to the freedom of movement of goods, works, services, capital and workforce,” the head of state underlined.

“I am often criticized by Russia and others that I act proceeding from the interests of the Belarusian state. Is not it an absurd complaint? What interests should I pursue?” the head of state said.

“We are not against import; however, we should protect domestic producers. As far as I understand, the government has already started working on it. We should proceed from our own interests without causing big problems for our neighbors, partners and so own. We need to reconcile our actions,” the President noted.

The President remarked that the common consumer market is being formed in the Eurasian Economic Union. ”This is a transitional period which poses certain difficulties. We have already faced it. Therefore, our people should be protected. A person has a legitimate right to buy a high-quality product at a reasonable price,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

“Therefore, it is needed to step up control over the consumer market. I have already given all instructions in this field. Necessary decisions at the level of the head of state have been made. I want them to be implemented accurately. Members of the government and governors have already got broad authorities for it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“In fact, we have already tested these methods of work. They were a success. It is good. However, I want to warn you that we should not apply intricate approaches in the pricing policy which can do harm to business,” the head of state stressed.

“We have stepped up regulations in certain areas. Then find time to talk to the businessmen, ask them about the problems they face. You have all authorities to make a difference there,” the President said. “I do not see any problems here. When making this decision, I, first of all, implied that at present we have much cheaper resources in comparison with the previous crises. Therefore, we will be able to keep these prices. We do not decrease them. Perhaps, we will have to step up control over the prices for certain categories of products. There will be no problems here.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that during his recent visit to the Russian Federation this issue was discussed on the sidelines. “I told them that they have vehemently advocated market relations and now started to regulate pricing in trade. However, they reproached me for doing so. I heard a lot of criticism from Russians when we used certain leverages in difficult situations. And now they are doing what we have done before,” the Belarusian head of state said. “They are doing the right thing. The main objective is not to aggravate the situation, not to violate the main principles and laws of the economy. It does not matter if market or administrative methods are used. These measures should not do harm to enterprises and create unemployment,” he added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that he had tasked the government with elaborating the socio-economic development program of Belarus for 2016-2020. The President emphasized that the major targets of the economic policy remain the same.

“The focus should be made on developing human potential, encouraging business initiative and entrepreneurship, securing a foreign trade balance, promoting sustainable development of regions, building high-quality and affordable housing and maintaining food security.

“A strong social policy, care for people, attention to the youth, creation of comfortable conditions for people have been and will be the biggest priorities of our state,” the President noted.

“At the same time, I expect that the government will come up with fresh ideas. You are the think tank that should develop methods and ways to ensure sustainable and balanced economic growth and improvement of living standards of people,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the country is going through a difficult period and the current government will have tough times. However, there are some positive things, too. “We no longer need to choose which way to follow. The government does not have a question: what to do and how to work. We have already probed everything not only theoretically, from some books. We no longer doubt whether our plans will work or not. We have already tested them practically. Choose any instrument and act. We know where to go and what to do along the way. Every government agency knows that. And this is already a great achievement. However, there is much more to it. We need to take instruments and start working. We need to move, not stay idle. We should not stop! I often tell people in my narrow circle that it is better to do something and make a mistake, rather than stand still,” he stressed.

The President noted that the government should pay more attention to the analysis of development trends taking into consideration the global and regional processes, and to develop projection models and possible solutions. “One should be able to foresee, not just set tasks,” the head of state said. The President asked to keep it in mind while drafting the government’s action plan that is to be submitted to the parliament within two months in line with the constitution.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also touched upon the optimization of the state apparatus.

The President said he instructed Andrei Kobyakov to continue working on the optimization of the functions of government bodies and to submit comprehensive system-based suggestions for consideration.

"Above all, we need to finally exempt the government bodies from overlapping and non-core functions. This is the main thing! As a result the state apparatus will be small, well paid and highly professional,” the President emphasized.

Government agencies should be open and transparent, particularly at the local level where the contact between the authorities and people is the closest, the head of state added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested making bigger use of public debates, including under the aegis of the councils of deputies, of the most important issues and thus involving citizens in the governance and creating a reliable barrier to corruption.

Speaking about the personnel policy, the President noted that it must focus on nurturing new promising specialists with a vision, capable of generating effective solutions.

"Today, we need maximum concentration, rapid and concerted action of all state bodies in the key areas of domestic and foreign policy. If we fail to get together and pool our resources, abilities, capabilities and talent we will not survive!” the head of state believes.

"The biggest threat is not the fifth column, not the opposition, not a war from the East, the West, as some scare us here. The biggest danger for us is ourselves, the economy,” the President said.

Together, we can overcome any obstacles. We have dealt with such issues before and know how to do it. I am sure that we will solve them. However, the conditions have changed a bit. Therefore we need to adapt to the new environment, adjust our economy, particularly finance and our socio-economic life in the country, the head of state noted.