Meeting to discuss passenger transportation issues

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Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko chaired a government meeting to discuss passenger transportation issues on 14 November.

“We are considering this issue today not only because there have been a number of road accidents. There are many areas and issues in our everyday life that happen to be in disorder. Since this is the issue of people’s safety, our citizens’ safety (I am not talking about taxes, there is enough wrongdoing there), this issue should be thoroughly looked into,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Today we need to consider and establish uniform rules for all in the sector. The rules need to be strict, transparent and clear. No one should be pressured, fired, or something. The rules must be the same for everyone! For both working legally and illegally. These must be uniform rules. It is necessary to determine what functions the state will assume as a regulator: how total control will be exercised in the sector, what additional responsibilities carriers will have,” the President said.

The head of state added that the passenger road transportation issue primarily pertained to shuttle buses that serve cities and routes between villages, taxis.

“The state has two simple requirements to the sector. The first is the safety of people. This transport is used by many of our people and guests of the country. The second requirement is legal operation. Working illegally, they downplay, hide their proceeds, pay salaries in envelopes, do not pay taxes. Law enforcement agencies are dealing with these issues. I would like [Belarusian Minister of Internal Affairs Ivan] Kubrakov and [Chairman of the State Security Committee (KGB) of Belarus Ivan] Tertel to report to me before the year end in order to make appropriate decisions. There is nothing to talk about with those who violate the law. If you do not pay the tax, you get the punishment [bear responsibility in accordance with the legislation],” the head of state said.

In his words, not all participants in this business observe clear and fair rules: “Inspections of the State Control Committee reveal a lot of unscrupulous businessmen”.

In January-September 2023, a bit more than 10,000 cars were checked, and about 9,000 violations were revealed.

“The worst thing is that those offering transportation services illegally deliberately evade the safety requirements for regular carriers: the necessary driving category and experience. As a result, terrible road accidents take place,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “They fail to deliver a necessary term of service, the right category, permit to resume work, vehicle technical inspection documents, proper work and rest regime. These drivers work from morning till night. Because they earn money for their bosses. Such an attitude will sooner or later lead to a tragedy like the one that took place in Smolevichi District where half a dozen people died, including children,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

From the financial point of view, the most frequent cases are revenue concealment, disaggregation, wages in envelopes, and tax dodging. “Roman Aleksandrovich [Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko], we need to toughen the punishment for such things: if you resort to disaggregation of your business, you will be held responsible, if you do not pay taxes... Look, who will reproach us? In the United States, a democratic country, you can get life imprisonment for non-payment of taxes,” the head of state said. “This means unfair competition with legal carriers, which affects the entire road transportation industry. They have no system, they steal and do not pay taxes. What buses and other carriers can compete with them?! It is an unequal playing field. Don't we see it?”

As a result, budget losses amount to tens of millions of Belarusian rubles, and conscientious carriers are forced to close their businesses and let their workers go.