MINSK, 12 January (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko has heard out reports by Vice Premier Yuri Nazarov and Industry Minister Piotr Parkhomchik, BelTA has learned.
The meeting focused on the performance of the manufacturing sector and its prospects for 2021 and the upcoming five-year period as a whole. The head of state emphasized the need to have not only forecasts, but also clear plans for product manufacturing and supply. He asked about deliveries on leasing terms, and access to public procurement in the Russian Federation, as well as progress in implementing key investment projects in Belarus.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also emphasized the importance of improving the quality of Belarus-made products. This is essential for sustainable operation of enterprises and fulfillment of plans.
Another topic on the agenda was Western sanctions against several domestic enterprises. Aleksandr Lukashenko called these sanctions mobster sanctions and instructed the government to work out an adequate response.
Outcomes and plans
At the very beginning of the meeting, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the discussion should not be confined to a report on the Industry Ministry's performance over the past year. This matter was to be discussed only in general terms. “If we are to review performance of the Belarusian manufacturing sector over the past year, then, probably, we should do it in a broader way, so that it does not look like it is done behind the scenes. And then, we need to praise and reward some and rebuke others who underperformed in the given situation,” the president said.
The head of state asked to focus specifically on plans, not just forecasts. “Naturally, plans for next year. Plans, not forecasts. This market economy ramblings must be stopped. There is a tough plan. If we want to survive, we must implement these plans. They might call us die-hards, conservatives, and so on. However, when enterprises work and people get salaries, preferably at least a little higher than last year's, then we will be appreciated,” the president said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that it is more important to discuss how evenly equipment is produced and supplied throughout the year. “A very important issue is the supply of equipment on lease. Decree No. 146 [“On financing the purchase of modern technology and equipment' as of 2 April 2015], which you often cite. What goals do you pursue and how are we going to approach leasing matters next year?” the president asked.
He also drew attention to the fact that the government is determined to draw plans for orders and manufacturing of Belarusian equipment, as well as plans for purchases and sales in the five-year period.
According to Yuri Nazarov, in 2020 the output in the manufacturing industry as a whole was 99.3% as against 2019. “We expected this figure to be 98% in the summer, but we improved it a bit,” he said.
Of course, there are objective reasons for this situation, but, for example, the Bellesbumprom concern performed better than in the previous year. “I want to emphasize that it uses local raw materials. That is what you have always said: no matter how things are with oil, gas, agreements with someone, we have our own raw materials, and we should process them and get a quality product that we can export and sell,” the vice-premier noted.
Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized the importance of this example: “I want to tell our protesters and those who criticized us that agriculture saved us this year giving a 5% boost (in difficult years); exports will skyrocket. The same is about woodworking. They told us that we made a bad investment. However, it is saving us today and is producing results, and we process local raw materials. We expanded both production and export. In other words, our investment paid back handsomely,” the president said.
The head of state also asked to update him about the state of things with the access to public procurement contracts in the Russian Federation. “This is of critical importance for me. I want to put several fundamental questions to senior officials of the Russian Federation, so that at the next meeting, both at the level of the governments and presidents, we could discuss how the Sochi decisions of the two presidents on cooperation and sales are being implemented,” Aleksandr Lukashenko explained.
“We will not go any further unless we improve the quality of our products. You admit this, too. We talked a lot about it. I think that in 2021, the first year of the five-year plan, we need to pay special attention to quality,” the president stressed.
He stated that there are enterprises that made great strides in terms of product quality. However, product quality deteriorated, albeit insignificantly, at some other companies. “As far as I understand, this is, first of all, about product complaints,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
Piotr Parkhomchik explained that this mainly concerns new types of products that rolled out not so long ago.
Mobster sanctions of the West
“One more question. A couple of our enterprises have come under the so-called mobster sanctions from the West. Mr Nazarov, discuss this matter with Prime Minister Golovchenko and the government: we must respond symmetrically to that. They imposed sanctions against our enterprises. We must see which countries did this, and we must react accordingly,” the head of state said.
He noted that several thousand foreign companies operate in Belarus - small, medium, large ones. “They [the countries that imposed sanctions] should keep it in mind. As long as our relations are fine, these enterprises will be fine. Once they take steps in the wrong direction and start to pressurize us, we must respond symmetrically,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“We should not be afraid, we should fight back. At the same time, we should shore up our enterprises, such as MZKT, Amkodor, a couple of others. Now I would like to hear out your proposals on how we will do it,” the Belarusian leader added.
Key investment projects
Key investment projects were another important topic of the meeting. “I mean the projects related to your previous place of work [Yuri Nazarov headed the Bellesbumprom concern before his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister], and the new one - Shklov, Dobrush, Svetlogorsk [ongoing projects in the pulp and paper industry],” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Separately, he touched upon development plans for Grodno Azot. There are plans to build a new complex to produce nitrogen fertilizers there. “How will we do it, where will we take the money for it, who will we partner with? However, once we decided to go for it, we should go ahead, if this is a promising project. This will be the key enterprise of the five-year period. Of course, the construction project will not span five years, but nevertheless, it is necessary to build a modern enterprise to manufacture nitrogen fertilizers. Indeed, there is a demand for these products today and it will remain in place in the future. There is not enough food in the world. And there is no food without fertilizers,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
After the meeting
After the meeting with the head of state, Piotr Parkhomchik told reporters that a task was set to start increasing industrial output without overstocking from the first quarter of this year. The priority will be placed on expanding and diversifying exports.
By the way, at the end of 2020 warehouse stocks shrank by Br303 million from H1 2020. Temporary difficulties were caused by the global turbulence amidst the pandemic, but the markets started to reawaken in the second half of the year.
Piotr Parkhomchik told the president about the performance of the industrial enterprises of the Orsha cluster. As is known, the head of state is closely monitoring the situation in this area. At the end of the year, the enterprises posted growth and net profit, salaries increased. The participants of the meeting discussed projects to be implemented there in 2021-2023. All of them are in the works, and the minister is confident that the instructions will be fulfilled.
At the request of journalists, Piotr Parkhomchik commented on the sanctions against some enterprises in Belarus contemplated by the West. So far, there is no specificity in this matter, but the minister believes that certain trends are taking shape. “There are some enterprises in Finland and Germany that are delaying the supply of some components. Time will tell what will happen next. Anyway, our task is to find solutions using available mechanisms, to focus on import substitution and localization of these components,” he said.