Meeting to discuss economic performance in 2020, draft forecast documents for 2021
On 7 December Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko convened a meeting to discuss the performance of the economy in 2020 and the draft forecast documents for 2021.
The government and the National Bank have submitted a package of forecast documents to the President. In order to get comprehensive views on them and to compare the proposed approaches with the heads of local authorities, a wide range of participants, including senior officials, deputies of the prime minister, ministers and governors, have been invited to the meeting.
“I have always emphasized and want to reiterate the following thing: if the government and the parliament decide that these documents which will be formalized in laws and decrees of the President are preferable for the development of our country, and that it will meet the interests of local authorities represented by governors, then so be it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“We are boldly and quickly making various forecasts and decisions. But, as practice shows, we have not implemented them in recent years. Therefore, we will have a long talk. Decisions will be made and formalized in laws and decrees of the President. We will synchronize watches every six or nine months, and if you fail to fulfill our goals, you will leave your posts. No offence, let’s just agree on that once and for all.”
“Everybody is saying that we need to redistribute authorities. I have always added: we will redistribute authorities, give additional powers to those who lack them. But those with additional powers will also get additional responsibilities. In this case this is the most democratic scheme, all democratic states have such the schemes: the government submits a document for consideration, the parliament approves it, if it is a law, the head of state signs or rejects it in case any principles determined at the All-Belarus People’s Congress are violated. The main principles of the operation of our state in 2021-2025 will be determined at this congress of people. This is an absolutely transparent, beautiful and democratic scheme,” the President said.
“During this meeting we will not only sum up the preliminary results of the year but will also consider the forecast for the year. We will not be discussing the five-year plans today. This is the starting year in the five-year period and we will carefully consider it. As for the five-year period, perhaps, we will make some adjustments at the end of the year. In early January, we will return to the five-year plan, especially since we are going to review it at the Belarusian People's Congress," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The head of state noted that it is possible to look at the results of the economy this year in different ways. The industry fell behind last year’s results, investments decreased, exports plunged by 15%. “Today we need to take a wider look at the current situation and realize the extraordinary challenges we are facing and the problems we have been able to avoid. This is very important for future planning. The current government has faced one of the most difficult periods in decades. Sometimes the situation changed within days, not even weeks or months,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
At the same time, the President noted that the key task has been achieved, namely the financial stability in the banking sector and the foreign exchange market. "We did not run into any arrears and paid off all the debts. This was achieved in the context of the tight budgetary framework and the main shock of the year - coronavirus. We have done everything possible for this," the President stressed.
The head of state noted that in the forecast documents the government proposes to focus on social stability and the tasks that ensure it, namely: income growth, control of prices for socially important goods, housing construction, control of unemployment. “The approach is conceptually correct,” the President said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the task of price control should not only concern food products: “Who said that a refrigerator and a washing machine are not important products for the population? They are. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a mechanism to curb prices in all areas and parameters. Now it turns out that we control the farmers only (prices for food and clothes), and everyone else feel relaxed. It still somehow affects the pricing in agriculture, for food. We have talked about it a lot. We have already developed the practice of controlling prices and curbing inflation.” Trade unions, local councils and MPs are also involved in the process.
“Given the current events taking place both outside and inside the country, it would be reckless to make any ambitious plans for next year. On the other hand, falling behind the achieved level is unacceptable neither socially, nor economically, or politically. I would like to warn the government, governors and all others who will be implementing the decisions on social and economic development: complains that we have a pandemic and the entire economy in the world has stopped and we have no one to work or trade with will not be accepted. Forget about it. Yes, the pandemic is an unpleasant background. We however need to set ourselves goals and, no matter what it takes, achieve them. I demand only one thing: we need to secure positive momentum in all the areas. Each step must necessarily meet two requirements: economic efficiency and careful and attentive attitude to people's needs,” the head of state said.
The President asked whether the country has the necessary resources to ensure social focus in the forecast documents. “All the more so that the economic growth will largely depend on the ways to increase domestic demand. This is the right thing to do. Of course, we should meet the domestic demand ourselves. Who will finance it and how? Won't we destroy the stability and balance in the economy? We need to be careful. If we maintain the level of social security next year at the current level, it will be good. If we make progress, it will be very good. What are the investment projects planned for the coming year, and how do they relate to the development of territories and cities with a population of over 80,000 people?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.
The head of state expressed concern about the process of budget formation. “It is for the second year in a row that there has been made a proposal to plan a budget deficit. On the one hand, certain budget surplus of the previous years has been accumulated. On the other hand, it is impossible to live on reserves for a long time. What are you planning to do to address this issue?” asked Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The President also singled out medium-term planning as one of the important issues of the meeting: what results the country has achieved ahead of the new five-year period. Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence that ahead of the Belarusian People's Congress it is necessary to name not only the achievements but also to analyze the shortcomings.