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16 February 2024, 15:25

Lukashenko outlines Belkoopsoyuz problems, urges to address them

MINSK, 16 February (BelTA) - Speaking at the general meeting of the Belarusian national union of consumer societies Belkoopsoyuz on 16 February, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko outlined the major economic problems of the organization and demanded efforts to solve them as soon as possible, BelTA has learned.

On foreign economic activity

The head of state assessed Belkoopsoyuz’s export performance as unsatisfactory.  

Last year Belarus earned almost $50 billion in foreign markets. However, the contribution of consumer societies to the country’s total exports is at the level of arithmetic error, a hundredth of a percent.

In 2022, Belkoopsoyuz organizations exported just over $41 million worth of goods, down 13% from 2020.

“In 2023, unfortunately, the negative trends have intensified,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. During the period, exports amounted to $33 million, contracting by almost 20% compared to 2022.

There is no commodity diversification, the president added. The basis, as before, is made up of two low-processed goods: beef (41.5% of the total exports) and fur raw materials (40%). Supplies go mainly to Russia.

“Yes, Russia is our main trading partner. However, building up economic cooperation with other countries (China, faraway countries) is no less important,” the head of state emphasized. “You cannot put eggs in one basket. The task of increasing exports and foreign exchange earnings is for everyone, and you are no exception.”

On salaries and personnel management

For the further development and effective work of Belkoopsoyuz, the president emphasized the importance of recruitment and retention of personnel, which is closely linked with decent salaries.

“We need renewal, young specialists. What do we have to lure them? To retain highly-qualified specialists and attract new ones, we need to secure decent salaries,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Despite the fact that Belkoopsoyuz has no overdue arrears of wages, its level remains one of the lowest in the country. In 2023, the average monthly salary amounted to just over Br1,000, which is almost half as high as the nationwide one.

“District heads should get out of the office, go around their stores and workshops to understand why your organization has minimum wages. Everything looks simple on paper - there is no load. What have you done to ensure the load, to ensure a wide range of goods? This pertains to ordinary employees,” the head of state said.

On financial standing

According to the president, the financial situation at Belkoopsoyuz raises concerns: “Loss-making operations, high debt burden have led to the lack of own working capital in consumer societies. The situation is getting worse every year.”
“I want to warn you that there should be no eyewashing in your future work, otherwise you will be held accountable,” the head of state said providing a concrete example.

In late 2023, Belkoopsoyuz net profit amounted to Br800,000 according to accounting documents. “Not bad? Maybe it is yes for Belkoopsoyuz. But only at first glance. If you carefully study the documents, it becomes clear: for such a nice balance sheet, you have recorded the receipt of subsidies from the budget to purchase fur-bearing animals by Belkoopmekh enterprise and the transfer of your accumulated debts to the Agency for Asset Management,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. - In fact, in January-November 2023, the company posted a net loss of Br6.6 million, which is almost twice as much as in the same period of 2022.”

According to the president, the debt on loans for 2023 increased by more than 3% and amounted to about Br417 million as of early January 2024. Overdue debts to banks more than doubled to amount to almost Br43 million.

“Loans need to be repaid. Therefore, the criterion for assessing your work is growing profits, with or without our help,” the head of state emphasized. “Meanwhile, if we judge by the true, not drawn results, the proper conclusions from our last conversation have not been made. And you still do not have any financial margin of safety. These are only the most basic tasks.”

The president instructed the Belkoopsoyuz management together with the government, governors and the mayor of Minsk to mobilize efforts in the shortest possible time and bring ironclad order in every area of activity. “All the problems are directly related to the efficiency of management processes. There are enough reserves - from property management, rational use of material and technical base to automation, deep analysis and intra-departmental control. There cannot be minor matters when you are dealing with losses,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. In order to establish more effective work, including in remote small communities, the president instructed to engage large retail chains in this activity. “Mobilize them to help Belkoopsoyuz in the rural areas,” he said. “Let them go to remote rural communities. And not by themselves, but let them help Belkoopsoyuz organizations.”

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, there is an approved program for the development of consumer cooperation, which, by the way, should be finalized after the current meeting. “All the personnel should be mobilized to achieve the goals set by the program,” the head of state said.

The president also recalled Decree No.42 issued in February to promote rural areas and create the most comfortable conditions for people who live there. When preparing the document, the main things were taken into account, including infrastructure for trade, public catering, and consumer services.

According to the decree, individual entrepreneurs and business entities engaged in these areas, including Belkoopsoyuz organizations, will enjoy special reduced tariffs on electricity and tax benefits, up to exemption from certain types of taxes until the end of 2028.

The right to determine the list of rural communities, where preferences will be granted, is vested in regional councils of deputies. “As you can see, this is solid state support,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Belkoopsoyuz has a powerful potential and all necessary resources, including material and technical base, workforce and technologies,” the head of state said. The president outlined the first priority task for the Belkoopsoyuz new chairperson elected today, which is to put things in order taking into account the decisions made at this meeting. Supervision will be performed by the State Control Committee, the government and governors.

“I am convinced that from now on a simple phrase should be added to the motto of the consumer societies: quality above all. This is what our rural dwellers always thank trade, healthcare and education for,” the head of state emphasized. 
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