MINSK, 21 January (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a meeting with representatives of the Council of Ministers to discuss a number of documents related to different areas of social life in the country on 21 January, BelTA has learned.
A wide range of participants were invited to attend the meeting, including key representatives of the power vertical responsible for the social and economic aspects of the country's development. “A number of documents affecting various areas of social life have been included in today's discussion. These are four decrees and a law. Before I sign these documents, I would like to hear your opinions and conclusions. If I submit such documents for consideration, it means I need more information,” the president said.
According to the head of state, the documents concern the investment program for the current year and the implementation of some most significant projects. “We will also discuss the issues of improving the operation of economic societies, development of electric power industry and agro-ecotourism. These topics are of particular relevance to our country. We have to make decisions. Otherwise, we will slow down the development, at least in a particular section of the economy. A slowdown in a particular area is a slowdown in general. Such things are unacceptable. We cannot make a mistake either,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
“My approaches to most of the issues are well-known. Expediency, economic efficiency and social justice should be in the foreground when we discuss such issues,” said the Belarusian leader.
On the state investment program and commercial projects
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that there should be no imbalances, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the difficult situation in the world. Perhaps the construction of some facilities, which will not give a quick financial return, could be postponed for the following years.
According to the head of state, the draft state investment program envisages the construction of about 130 facilities to the total amount exceeding Br600 million. “This is not big money for the state. However, we need to try hard to save wherever it is possible. This would be an example for others. If we, here, do not know how to save up and single out the most important and necessary things for development, then governors and heads of executive committees will follow the same principles,” the president said.
“I am first of all interested in how accurate and optimal the list we are including in the state program is. Is it not excessive? Is the financing of each facility justified?” Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out the questions.
He raised similar questions in respect to the commercial projects consideration of which is submitted to the level of the head of state. “We have no money to spare. More so, for the objects that are supposed to bring profit. Any delay in their implementation means financial losses that someone will have to sustain,” the Belarusian leader said.
On the operation of business entities
Speaking about the amendments to the legislation on the activities of business entities, the president said that the amendments included provisions that, with the help of financial recovery measures, would make it possible to improve the economic situation at companies, attract additional capital and provide incentives for managers to develop efficiently.
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the approaches, previously defined in Belarus with regard to privatization, remain valid. “We have conceptually decided on privatization, and it has been accepted by the people. Complete freedom for the development of private property, public-private partnership. You are free to act, but, please, do not touch what has been created by the people. This is an extreme case which requires an individual consideration,” he stressed.
The head of state stressed that the legislation should not change often. “If we add something, we have to make sure that everything is taken into account. More so because the issues regulated by the bill affect the majority of organizations in the country,” said the president.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, some companies have already been supported several times. This should not kill the initiative of the heads of enterprises that do their best to work efficiently and rely on their own resources. “So if the help has been provided, bring results. It should not be like this - time passes and they find a new justification to subsidize or support their activities. At the expense of whom?” the Belarusian leader said.
On the development of power industry
Another issue raised at the meeting was the development of the power sector and improvement of the relevant legislation. The government suggests letting producers to sell surplus electricity to consumers in any area of the country.
“How would such a decision affect tariffs? How has the operation of the nuclear power plant been adjusted to the new conditions?” the president asked.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that decisions on such issues should be made at the ministry and government level. “You want more authority, so you are welcome, make these decisions. Why take them to the level of the president? The main thing for me is not to ruin the unified energy system,” he stressed.
On the support of agro-ecotourism
The head of state stressed that a new sector of economy has emerged thanks to the conditions created in recent years. This new sector has recently developed a lot. We are talking about agro-ecotourism. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the number of agro-ecotourism facilities has increased 80 times over 14 years - from 34 to almost 3,000. In 2020, they welcomed over half a million guests.
“Tourism services have become very popular among both visitors of our country and Belarusians, especially during the pandemic, with most countries closed for travel. The recent developments have showed that the demand for ethno vacations around the world will continue growing,” the president said.
The government is in favor of extending the current conditions for agro-ecotourism and maintaining preferential lending until 2030. “I am not against supporting, especially since it was my decision, and I was at the origins of the birth of agro-ecotourism. I proceeded from the necessity to give the countryside a new lease of life. Isn't it the way to raise villages? We have created the necessary conditions. I am not against supporting them further. We must not however go beyond the five-year plan in any case. We adopt all programs for five years maximum, so let us limit ourselves to five years here as well,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
He instructed the government to thoroughly study the operation of farm stays in the near future to prevent the situation when support is given to those who run other businesses under cover of tourist services. “Let us revisit the legislation on agro-ecotourism in general and if we need to support additional development of farm stays, let us do it. It is important that such recreation is in demand primarily among Belarusians and is available for Belarusians,” the president added.
On the main task for the meeting's attendees
“The main task for everyone here is to introduce the toughest measures for violating tax laws. Take the laws that are in effect in the United States of America. Let us enact them. No one will criticize us as it is a bastion of democracy. Taxation there is strictly regulated, and there are big sentences for those not paying taxes. Here, we have entire industries going into the shadows, and do nothing about it,” said the president.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also spoke about envelope wages. He stressed that such violations should also entail serious responsibility.
“Take these tasks to implementation immediately,” the head of state said.