MINSK, 5 July (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and senior officials of the Council of Ministers have discussed the draft decree “On asset management”. The head of state asked the officials in charge about the details of the amendments and noted that the amendments should not have a negative impact on decision-making regarding state property management, BelTA has learned.
Chairman of the State Property Committee Dmitry Matusevich noted that the draft decree establishes uniform approaches to the management of state property and property of businesses with a state share. He explained that this pertains to real estate, buildings, houses, enterprises, factories, roads and so on.
“All of this is regulated today. You decided to suggest that I pass this decree because you want to improve the regulation procedures, did you not?” the president asked.
“Absolutely. We have prepared a consolidated draft decree based on Decree No. 169 that is not bad and works by and large,” the head of the State Property Committee replied.
“You are no longer happy with some parts of this decree, and you suggest slightly changing it?” the head of state asked.
“80% of the existing decree will remain unchanged. We propose to amend certain provisions of the decree taking into consideration the situation on the ground,” Dmitry Matusevich explained.
According to him, people are now less willing to buy idle state property. “Thanks to the work to identify and certify objects, to take stock of dilapidated and empty houses, as well as due to new construction, the amount of state property is even increasing. Every year, 1,200 to 1,800 objects with an aggregate area of up to 1 million square meters are removed from the list of state property. Demand for this property nosedived by a third in 2020 and is not yet recovering. Some 3.3 million square meters, or 2.7% of the total real estate owned by the state remain unwanted. The bulk of such property are agricultural assets and social infrastructure, former military facilities. We believe that by improving the regulatory framework we will be able to create the necessary incentives to re-use such property. This is the objective of the proposed draft decree,” the State Property Committee chief said.
The proposed document generally retains the right of the head of state to take decisions on alienation and pledge, trust management, acquisition of real estate and shares at the expense of the central budget.
“Moreover, the draft decree allows the president to take any decisions related to property management. Thus, the approaches to privatization and the use of budgetary funds remain the same,” Dmitry Matusevich emphasized.
What powers can the president lose?
Among the new things suggested by the draft decree is that the Council of Ministers, not the president, will take decisions on the transfer of shares, stakes in the authorized capitals of economic operators owned by the central government to municipal governments. As the head of the State Property Committee explained, this will make management more efficient. According to data for 12 years, the president took 61 decisions in 860 of such cases.
“Does it really make sense to transfer this decision-making from the president to the government, if the number of cases when the president took such decisions is so small?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.
The head of state noted that the existing system acts as a kind of filter, it has multiple levels and helps take high-quality and comprehensive decisions on property management. “After all, the attitude is different depending on whether a decision is taken by the head of state or by lower-ranking officials. If Deputy Prime Minister Nazarov receives a document and he knows that he has to take it to the president, and then Gerasimov and others will get involved, that the president might reject this proposal altogether... The attitude is different. This feeling of responsibility might be gone,” the Belarusian leader said.
Dmitry Matusevich believes that now such a ‘filtering' of decisions is irrelevant, because “there are not so many applications for the transfer of assets”, and it is possible to transfer small blocks of shares without asking the president's permission.
“You should keep in mind that the reason why this does not happen on a massive scale is that because it is necessary to go to the president for permission. When there is no longer need to do it, we might see this on a massive scale again, which cannot be allowed,” Aleksandr Lukashenko warned.
The head of the State Property Committee noted that decisions on the transfer of shares will be made by the government upon agreement with all the interested parties, including the State Control Committee. This is envisaged by the draft decree. “The filter will work at a certain level,” he assured.
Can ministers be entrusted with alienation of property?
In line with the decree, some powers are to be transferred from the Council of Ministers to government agencies and state-run organizations. This pertains to alienation of immovable and movable property and its transfer as a pledge. In 2021, such decisions were made on 236 state property objects.
The head of state suggested supplementing the draft decree with the rule that ministers would be able to make decisions on the alienation of property only in agreement with local authorities.
“In this case the procedure will take a bit more time,” the head of the State Property Committee remarked.
“The procedure will take more time if the minister does not insist, and the governors allow red tape (which I doubt),” the president said.