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18 January 2024, 15:26

Lukashenko explains import substitution using McDonald’s withdrawal as example

MINSK, 18 January (BelTA) – Belarus can and should take care of import substitution in the market segments that have been abandoned by investors from unfriendly countries due to Western sanctions. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko used the example of McDonald’s withdrawal to discuss import substitution efforts at a meeting with top officials of the Council of Ministers on 18 January, BelTA has learned.

To recall the beginning of the problem situation, Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I’d like to mention one very vivid example. I mentioned McDonald’s for a reason. Sanctions were introduced by Americans. They decided to stop their operations and leave Belarus. The door is open. Feel free to leave. We didn’t stop anyone from leaving and we didn’t force them to leave either. They were told that they were free to work or leave. It was up to them. But this is McDonald’s. How can anyone work as well as McDonald’s did in Belarus? It was the key slogan. And petitioners went to me saying that we will be unable to operate. That we will be unable to cut a bun in half and put a sausage or meat inside. That we will be unable to fry some French fries. That we will be unable to do anything.”

This is why Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Belarus sells high-quality foods such as dairy products, meat ones, and many other kinds all over the world. “As for potatoes, we are the nation of potato lovers after all. Can we bake buns? We had plenty of buns when we were kids. We could buy one for a low price and the buns were tasty. Can’t we cut a bun in half and push meat, potatoes, or salad inside it? I thought we should check whether we could do it or not,” the president said.

The president’s Press Secretary Natalya Eismont and First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Snopkov were instructed to take care of the matter and oversee the resolution of the problem. “I decided to put two people in charge of it. They just came in handy. Go ahead and make it happen,” the head of state noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that in the end he had taken part in the resolution of the problem although he had never been to a McDonald’s restaurant: “I had to get to the bottom of it and study this system. Without tasting anything and so on.”

As a result, 25 restaurants formerly owned by McDonald’s have been reopened and people buy their products. “The number of customers is rising as Snopkov told me. People eat what is cooked there with gusto. We’ve started cooking what McDonald’s had always traditionally offered in Belarus. And our French fries are good. They are made out of our potatoes. McDonald’s had not always bought Belarusian potatoes. Potatoes had been imported from god knows where. Why? Backroom deals. Someone paid money to someone for it. We now eat our own potatoes. I am convinced they are better. Meat is also added. It has been done,” the Belarusian leader stated. “I wonder why people had been trying to deceive me into thinking that it would be impossible and that we had to sell the chain to someone.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained that when he was contemplating what to do, he thought Belarus could resolve the problem because Russia had been able to replace McDonald’s chain of restaurants with its own one.

Moreover, it is not simply a matter of import substitution. It is also a matter of people’s nutrition, a matter of control over food quality. “These foods are ours. They are Belarusian. And we are responsible for it. We feed good food to our people. Import substitution in public catering is the key thing. Health depends on the food people eat. The rest is not important. We know how to tighten and make nuts, bolts, and the rest,” the president stressed.

“And they wanted to sell [McDonald’s restaurants] by claiming we don’t know how to cook, we cannot… We know how to make everything and we can make everything! It should be the cornerstone of our policy,” the head of state is convinced. “If you go away, good riddance. The state will seize the property. So, they abandoned the property, we picked it up and licked it into shape. A private owner willing to buy [McDonald’s restaurants] by paying a lot of money has appeared. A normal Belarusian, who owns property, is ready to develop this chain. Go ahead. We will provide this chain with more space for growth, for building new restaurants in cities and towns, in oblast capitals. If you don’t want that, we will give you the old restaurants that don’t work so well or are close to shutting down. We are ready to help with that.”
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