Working trip to Mogilev Oblast

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Belarus will continue to support honest investors, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said during the visit to Kronospan OSB in Mogilev on 21 March.

The President was informed about the social and economic development of the region and its readiness for the spring sowing campaign. The President heard out a report on the development of the free economic zones Mogilev, the efforts of the region to attract internal and external investments.

It was reported that there are positive trends in the development of the economy of Mogilev Oblast, still there are certain problems. The President urged to do its best to fulfill the forecast targets. “If you fail to fulfill the targets, you will be fired,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

During the working trip the President visited the wood processing enterprise Kronospan OSB. He was also informed about the promising and successful investment projects of Kronospan aimed at raising the volume of wood processing, production, and export.

Director of the company Kronospan OSB Tomasz Janczak informed the Belarusian head of state about the company’s willingness to work directly with Belarusian state-run timber harvesting enterprises and get the necessary amounts of timber as close to manufacturing sites as possible in order to minimize transportation costs.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that such cooperation options are possible but the investor has to take into account state interests. “Take a look at Mogilev Oblast and the neighboring region. There are many areas we don’t explore. The investor will have to build roads, cut down trees, and take care of forest restoration,” the head of state told the responsible civil servants.

“If you prove yourselves to be decent people, we will let you rent more lands like that. It is profitable for us because forest lands are huge. We fall behind the optimal harvesting curve in some places,” Aleksandr Lukashenko told the representatives of the enterprise.

The use of Belarusian machines and vehicles to harvest timber and transport it was also discussed.

During the tour of the enterprise the head of state was made familiar with modern technological processes used to make oriented-strand boards and an exhibition of products the company makes. After that, Aleksandr Lukashenko talked to a number of workers representing the enterprises OOO Kronochem and IOOO Kronospan OSB.

“I wish there were more companies like that in Belarus. It is easy for me to talk to you. I would like the critics, who attacked me when I decided in favor of modernizing woodworking enterprises, to hear it,” the President said. He reminded that that decision had been made partially due to the need to effectively utilize the available forest resources. Work to attract foreign investors proceeded along with efforts to retool the woodworking enterprises. “I’ve come here to see how foreigners work in Belarus and what benefits we get from it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state once again underscored that he is ready to consider proposals relating to the renting of forest lands for timber harvesting. “You are free to rent lands, starting small. Show me how you are going to work there. Roads and forest restoration are part of the deal. If investors undertake these obligations, they are welcome to work here and rent certain forest lands,” he said. “There is one more condition. Timber harvesters and timber transportation vehicles have to be of Belarusian make. Belarusian enterprises make all of them. We will make sure the machines operate effectively and well.”

Head of Kronospan Group Peter Kaindl, in turn, said that the most favorable conditions have been created for the development of his enterprise in Belarus. Therefore, the company decided to boost the volume of investments. In accordance with the investment agreement, the company had to invest $150 million in production processes and create 150 jobs. However, in 2017 the volume of investments should exceed $1 billion. Besides, more than 1,000 jobs were created in 2010-2016.

“Belarus has raw materials and highly qualified workers, the government creates ideal economic conditions. Belarus also has an ideal location for the organization of logistics. The stability in the country is also important,” Peter Kaindl stressed.

The President also said that Belarus will continue to support honest investors. “If they work in an honest way just like your enterprise is doing, I promised that we will support them in any fields. Members of the government, ministers, and I analyze the situation and try to meet investors halfway,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President remarked that favorable conditions have been created for investors in Belarus. “I do not know what else to do to prove once again that favorable conditions have been created for investors here. We have stable society, Belarus is a calm and quiet country. Our government is not the worst government. We did not ruin the country. Security and stability rely on the activities of the government,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that there are no corruption problems in Belarus. One-off incidents are immediately detected and prevented.

The President cited one of the recent examples: Belarusian Deputy Emergencies Minister Dmitry Begun has been arrested on charges of bribery. He is suspected of taking a bribe from a businessman in return for issuing an acceptance certificate for a new building not compliant with fire safety standards.

The President remarked that Belarus is attractive to investors due to the workforce potential and high educational level. The country has created the conditions for the development of different sectors, from woodworking industry to IT. “I have recently met with IT workers. You will see: Belarus will have an IT-boom. We are past the first stage of unimportant contracts and one-off services,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Today we have set the goal: to develop software and set up its production in Belarus and sell the finished product,” the President noted.

The head of state spoke about the achievements of Belarusian scientists in the Year of Science. “I would like our science to make a breakthrough and defeat the horrible disease that we have not yet managed to cure. If a breakthrough happened and we learned to cure cancer just like any other disease, it would be a blessing,” the Belarusian leader noted. “I would also like our scientists to invent a new energy source so that we do not have to beg our friends for every other batch of oil or gas.”

Speaking about the implementation of Ordinance No. 3 “On preventing social dependency”, the President emphasized that the document was neither abolished nor suspended. “The only thing I asked for was to put tax collection on hold for the people included in the relevant lists. Some of them were put on these lists unfairly. We will review all the lists. The deadline is 1 October,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

Speaking about the favorable outcomes of the decree, the head of state mentioned that people began to value their jobs more and submit more requests to the employment service. “Decree No. 3 is a litmus test for the social sector. It has unveiled many negative issues. We will not abolish it, but we will adjust it in order not to offend people,” the head of state added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that pricing, the level of salaries in the country, and employment are among the priorities for the government.

“It is inadmissible to cut jobs and fire workers without consent of local authorities,” the President said.

He explained that this decision is not dictated by the resolution to lock the process of firing and hiring workers. The head of state said that there are bad workers who do not want to work. “Of course, a director will not keep such workers. And he should not. Certain people think today when I urge to raise the average salary to Br1,000 that they will raise it to Br1,000 and fire a certain number of people, including normal workers,” the President said. “This cannot be done without consent of local authorities.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained that it is needed to employ people who have lost their jobs. “It is inadmissible to throw people out on the street in the complicated time. It is wrong. Perhaps, this is not a market driven approach, but now we will act this way,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also talked about reasons behind the recent increase in activity of various opposition structures in Belarus, including the so-called fifth column. “They would like to stir up riots in Belarus. They dream of destroying the government and overthrowing the president. Why? Because the president does not let them pocket factories and does not allow private land ownership,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. “Don’t worry. We are not going to surrender the country to anyone. We will hold it safe together. The greatest shortcoming of the so-called fifth column is the fact that they are too far from people’s aspirations and needs.”

Speaking about the invigoration of opposition bodies in Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that among other things it happened after he met with Iosif Seredich, Editor-in-Chief of the opposition newspaper Narodnaya Volya. He suggested that Aleksandr Lukashenko and the opposition should get together and discuss various problems and matters.

The head of state said that he had not turned down the idea right away. Instead he believes that representatives of the patriotic opposition, who love their nation and the country, should be present as well. “I am not going to talk to the other kind — to the provocateurs. What would normal people think if the head of state lets provocateurs sit at the round table in the Palace of Independence?” the head of state said. “This is why I set my terms. And it blew up this opposition cesspool. Their leaders understood that they would not be able to talk to the president. Different opposition members would be able to.”

“These are the reasons behind an increase in activity of our fifth column,” Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced.

The President remarked that the western organizations that finance opposition in Belarus are ready to give money primarily for the sake of organizing riots in Belarus.

The head of state said that militants, who had been preparing to stage an armed provocation, have been apprehended in Belarus. “We have already apprehended dozens of them, who have been training with weapons in camps. They are not the masked anarchists that have been apprehended in public transport. By the way, one of the camps was located near Bobruisk and Osipovichi. The other camps are located in Ukraine. I think some of them are located in Lithuania or Poland. I am not sure exactly but somewhere over there,” the President said. “Money has been funneled via Poland and Lithuania to Belarus. In the last few hours we’ve apprehended dozens of militants, who had been preparing an armed provocation.”

The President remarked that more information about it will be revealed before the general public later on. Aleksandr Lukashenko also mentioned how Belarusian law enforcement agencies had come to know about these plans. “I am grateful that there are true Belarusians, who warned us while travelling abroad, in the European Union. A woman came to an embassy and warned us. She dropped an official letter saying that a provocation was in the making. We started investigating the report and stumbled upon very interesting things,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

According to the President, it is now necessary to find out exactly where the money came from, who was involved in the training process, from what countries the relevant people came.

“There are some people bent on blowing up the situation in the country. I call them the fifth column. They are not an opposition,” he said.

The head of state stressed that it is the president’s job to take care of security and defense. “I pay very serious attention to the matter,” the President emphasized.

This is why Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded about a number of serious incidents that have happened at the state border recently. “In all my years I can’t remember a night when five major incidents happened,” the President said.

“I am concerned about an increase in the activity of the fifth column in Belarus… The fifth column and some other people are eager to stir up trouble in Belarus,” the Belarusian leader noted. “You should remember that there are thousands of provocation specialists like that in the world. They are certainly controlled by special services of certain countries.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko referred to Ukraine as an example. “These provocateurs are usually in demand in trouble spots. They are the ones that take shots and lead crowds. Panic and stampede ensue. People get furious with each other and strong feelings snowball out of proportion. Then people are offered weapons starting with knives and ending with firearms. Then these people, who allegedly came to get their due, become militants. There is an entire technology for staging color revolutions,” he said.

According to the President, some parties believe that Belarus is ripe for a color revolution. “Some 200 people took to the streets in Mogilev to ask for jobs. When they were offered jobs, they dispersed. In other words, they didn’t need jobs. These people were organized together with the fifth column and this wave went all over the large cities,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

“Some foreign parties saw that there is a demand for provocateurs in Belarus. An investigation will clear up things now. A criminal case has been opened. They have been trying to break into our territory using various means. It happened more than once and not only in 2017. They have been trying to smuggle pistols, machine guns or grenades into Belarus all the time,” the President said. “I saw the news on TV. Not everything was shown. I was concerned that an assault rifle without an identification number was found.”

According to the head of state, the fact testifies that the weapon has been made by an underground manufacturer. If it was used, its origin would be next to impossible to trace. “In other words, this is a bandit’s weapon. It is what I am most concerned about,” the President added.

The President stressed that Belarusian law enforcement agencies are always ready to suppress any illegal activities and banditry. “Belarusians want to live and raise their kids peacefully. Nobody needs a war and I cannot allow one. If necessary, I will lead from the front together with all of my friends and loved ones. We will never let the country be sacked and pillaged,” the Belarusian leader concluded.

After the visits to the abovementioned enterprise the head of state went to the village of Kopys where he inspected the progress in the agricultural experiment which was discussed at the government conference in the autumn of 2016. Back then the participants of the meeting discussed the project to turn several agritowns into an export oriented high-tech holding association with a full cycle of production.