The 17th Assembly of Business Circles took place in Minsk with the slogan "Challenge the crisis"; the moods among business leaders varied from cautious optimism to anticipations of near disaster.
The Chair of the Presidium of the Republican Confederation of Entrepreneurship, Chairman of Minsk Capital-City Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers Uladzimir Kariagin opened the assembly with the positive note: the authorities got another collection of proposals of the Belarusan business community of how to improve the business climate - Belarus National Business Platform 2016. Let us note that the National Platform has been submitted to the state since 2006.
"It is important for the entrepreneurs that business ideas are heard, understood in order to unfold the broad social dialogue between government, business and civil society," - said Uladzimir Kariagin. According to him, the new "road map" of business and government relations has been edited "more than 12 times" since October 2015. "Moreover, it is open for discussion until March 15; we call on all entrepreneurs, scientists, experts, representatives of state structures to pay close attention to what else can be offered", - added Uladzimir Kariagin.
The platform project contains more than 80 proposals. They are distributed in six priority areas: fair competition; effective de-bureaucratization; regulatory optimization; economic safety; honest privatization; responsible partnership.
Meanwhile, as the Chairman of the Belarusan Union of Entrepreneurs Aliaksandr Kalinin told to the "EuroBelarus" Information Service, the business community is especially concerned with the appearance of the finally updated Directive No.4. "The country has faced many challenges today - both external and internal. It is important to get back to the basics of dialogue now in order to make the decisions of the authorities predictable for business. The Directive No.4 makes the base of the dialogue between business and government; today its relevance has increased even more. The document suggests that any decisions of the authorities are discussed with business and have an adjustment period; it is not allowed to make any decisions post factum that would worsen the situation of business. There are many positive clauses. Unfortunately, we are witnessing the systematic violation of the first version of the Directive No.4 on the part of government agencies, and so far not a single official has been punished. We call upon the authorities to look for a way out of crisis together with business,” - said Aliaksandr Kalinin.
First Vice-Chairman of the Minsk Capital-City Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers Viktar Marhelau said that the government doesn’t hear small and medium business at all. "And it's too late to talk. Belarus’ business can only be saved by the joint active steps; otherwise in a couple of months there’ll be nothing and no one to save – people have almost lost faith that the government will pay attention to the problems of the private sector. We are talking about survival; there’ll only an empty field further and we will come back to where it all began in the early 90s, "- Viktar Marhelau assumes.
What do the authorities offer today? Thus, the Ministry of Economy finds it necessary to introduce the mandatory 50 per cent quota for private sector participation in public advisory councils. "It is required in order to move forward, time requires that. I am convinced that our proposal will be supported,"- the Minister of Economy Uladzimir Zinouski said. 31 such councils were created after the adoption of the Directive No.4 in 2010. According to Zinouski, "the draft of the updated directive is now under Lukashenka’s consideration."
Another guest of the Assembly, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Uladzimir Makei said that one of the priorities of his ministry is the growth of the Belarus’ export potential, and the business should contribute to that.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is keeping contacts with the associations of business circles of Belarus and intends to develop them. We are open for dialogue with business. Moreover, we have agreed with the Republican Confederation of Entrepreneurship to conclude a framework agreement on cooperation and establishment of a working group for cooperation on issues of export that could discuss current issues and elaborate their solutions," - said the Minister. According to him, now there are more than 22 thousand business entities in Belarus, but only 8.8 thousand of them are involved in export activities: "There is no end to work: it turns out that the two-thirds of economic entities are left behind the foreign economic activity. Our task is to draw them in."
In addition, according to the Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus has prepared a draft decree on the liberalization of visa regime for business. "An important moment for us is the liberalization of the visa regime. Of course, the intensification of relations of small and medium businesses with foreign partners could serve for the further liberalization of the visa regime. We have a lot of queries on this matter, and we are working in this direction. Moreover, we have already prepared a draft decree, which would provide maximum opportunities for business contacts with foreign partners," - said Uladzimir Makei.
Problems of self-employed market entrepreneurs, who practically don’t work starting from January 1 because of unrealistic new rules on certification of light industry products, and regularly protest in Kastrychnitskaya Square, were almost ignored. In any case, the government certainly doesn’t see individual entrepreneurs as a force that is able to solve serious economic problems. Self-employed entrepreneurs won’t definitely raise Belarus’ export.