Unemployment in Belarus Down to 0.9% of Economically Active Population Despite World Financial Crisis.
As of March 1 2009, the unemployment rate in Belarus was posted at 0.9%, BelTA learnt from the chief employment and population office of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.
In February, the recorded unemployment rate did not change; in January this year it climbed 0.1 percentage points. As of March 1, 2008, this figure was 1.1%.
As for the Belarusian regions, the unemployment rate did not change in the Vitebsk (1.2%), Grodno (1.1%), Minsk (0.9%) oblasts and Minsk (0.4%). In the rest of the regions this index rose 0.1 percentage points. As a result, the recorded unemployment rate was 1.2% in the Brest and Gomel oblasts and 1% in the Mogilev oblast.
In January-February 2009, the number of people seeking employment through state placement agencies was down 9.6% compared with the same period in 2008. The number of people who were registered as the unemployed during this period was down 14.1% while the number of those who were still seeking for a job was down 10.1%, too.
The situation on the labour market is in control. The unemployment rate does not exceed the relevant projections for 2009 which are 1.1-1.2% to the workforce. As of March 1, 2009, about 42,400 people were registered as the unemployed while in March 2008 this number was 50,800 people. However the crisis obviously had a certain impact on the labour market, the ministry added. The number of openings shrank.
Belarusian Ruble De-valuation Protects Belarusian Socio-Economic progress.
One-off devaluation is preferable to gradual weakening
A one-off devaluation of the national currency is preferable to a gradual weakening of a national currency, Prof. Mikhail Kovalev, dean of the economy department of the Belarusian State University, said in an interview with BelTA. A reminder, on January 2 the Belarusian ruble weakened 20.5% versus the US dollar, 20.3% versus euro, 17.3% versus the Russian ruble.
“The Belarusian ruble was devaluated very professionally. From the economic point of view, a one-off devaluation is better than a gradual devaluation as in Russia. A one-off devaluation of the national currency does not provoke a run on banks. There are many deposits in the national currency in the Belarusian banks. A panic would have triggered a bigger devaluation.”
Speaking about Russian Mikhail Kovalev said that Russia has been devaluing the ruble for about six months. Over this period the Russian ruble weakened from 23 rubles to 29.3 rubles against the US dollar. “The Russian ruble has weakened by more than 20%. As the process was slow, the negative expectations of the population were rising. There was a great outflow of capital from the country in the autumn. This all aggravated the state of affairs. At the same time the situation will be more complicated for the Russian Federation in March-April when the low oil prices will have its impact on the Russian economy,” Mikhail Kovalev said.
The devaluation in Belarus was mainly necessitated by the foreign trade deficit, which the country had has for the past several years, rather than by the negative consequences of the global crisis that the country experienced just at the end of 2008. According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-October 2008 the deficit of foreign trade in goods and services totaled $2932.4 million as against the projected $1400-1420 million.
“More so, the devaluation of the national currency was one of the requirements of the International Monetary Fund in the loan negotiations. Considering the amount of the trade deficit, obtaining the IMF loan is very important for the country,” Mikhail Kovalev said.
At the same time Mikhail Kovalev pointed to the ambiguous attitude of scientists towards the devaluation as an instrument to regulate foreign trade. “Other methods should be used more actively. Devaluation by itself does not produce the desired result. First of all, there is a need to use customs regulation of imports and to toughen credit policy. There is no need crediting unessential consumer imports. Over the last two years more than $2 billion were allotted for consumer lending what had a negative impact on the trade deficit and led to the shortage of foreign currency. Short-term foreign loans for importers should be also restricted,” Mikhail Kovalev said.
On January 2, 2009, the National Bank of Belarus pegged the Belarusian ruble to a basket of foreign currencies. The basket includes the US dollar, euro and Russian ruble, with these currencies having equal shares in the basket. The initial ruble cost of the basket was determined at the level of Br960, i.e. Br2650 per 1 US dollar, Br3703 per 1 euro and Br90.16 per 1 Russian ruble.
Throughout 2009 the ruble value of the basket will remain stable, fluctuating plus/minus 5%. The fluctuation of the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar, the euro and the Russian ruble will be possible only if these foreign currencies fluctuate against each other.
As of January 5, the National Bank’s official exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble was defined at the level of Br2650 per 1 US dollar; Br3703 per 1 euro and Br90.16 per 1 Russian ruble.
Financial Crisis Confirms Belarusian Economic System.
Despite being demonised in the West for state regulation of its financial markets, and businesses (particularly in relation to foreign investment), President Lukashenko's system is now being re-evaluated across the Western world:
The West came to understand that the state should interference in the economic development; President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, BelTA learnt from the presidential press service.
“Now in the US they are talking about an alternative to the liberal market economy where everything is allowed, where you can spend more than you earn. It led to the collapse,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“I warned the Americans and others. They did not listen to me, though. After all, I am not at the head of Germany or Russia. As it turned out, I was right. Now in the West, they started talking about the system we have been establishing for a long time. The state should have certain leverage; the control over business and the financial area is needed. It means that the state should not and does not have the right to withdraw from any area of human life. The socially-oriented policy should be pursued.”
Talking about the global financial crisis, Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus is well positioned to survive it, as the stock market is not very well developed here and the foreign borrowings are not that great. Yet, the President underlined that as the prices for oil and other raw materials are falling, the country will have to reduce the cost of production while maintaining the profitability of the manufacture. It is also necessary to look for new markets.
President Lukashenko Warns of no Change in aims of Western Imperialism, Despite Financial Crisis.
October 16th 2008.
The West will not abandon the idea to impose the unipolar world, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said at a session of the Security Council on October 16.
“NATO is actually drawing new dividing lines in Europe. This course is unlikely to change because of the global financial crisis. The governments are now trying to rescue banks, large companies and investors. But the strategic goals and doctrines have not been revised. The attempts to impose the unipolar world will continue,” the Head of State said.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, “the tension in Europe has been growing”. “New risks and threats are now facing the Belarus-Russia Union State as well as the brotherly states,” the President said.
In his words, Moscow’s growing role in the international arena has become an additional irritation factor for the West.
“The independent policy of Minsk and its refusal to bend before the mighty are not welcomed by many as well,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Source: National Legal Internet Portal of the Republic of Belarus.
CIS Executive on 2008 Parliamentary Elections.
The OSCE evaluations of the parliamentary elections in Belarus are still not free of double standards, CIS Executive Committee Chairman, CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev said as he met with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on September 30.
Sergei Lebedev underlined that according to the OSCE, the elections in Belarus were free, democratic and in compliance with the national legislation and international standards.
According to the CIS Executive Committee Chairman, the positive evaluation of the outcome of the elections is based on the objective information that was submitted by more than 400 CIS observers every day during two months. The CIS observers had visited 110 district election commissions and had a good opportunity to monitor the election campaign throughout the whole country. “The CIS observers had a better opportunity to monitor the campaign than the western missions, because we arrived earlier and the number of our mission was greater on the initial stage,” Sergei Lebedev said. He expressed his appreciation to the Belarusian side for their great support and the opportunity to get access to any information during the elections. “We met with voters, representatives of political parties, district election commissions, other observers,” the CIS Executive Committee Chairman said.
He noted that the representatives of the CIS member states have a common mentality; they understand the situation in the country. He expressed the opinion shared by the CIS observers that in the recent years positive changes took place in the organization of the electoral process in Belarus. The western observers also stated that there have been some positive developments in the electoral process. According to Sergei Lebedev, until the evening of September 28, the CIS and OSCE observers had the same opinion of the election campaign in Belarus. “They noted that the elections were held in a positive atmosphere, and in the evening they announced their joint evaluations. I was surprised to find out the next day that on September 29 they could not recognize that the elections were in compliance with the OSCE regulations. I had a feeling that the double standards were still present or that the observers were required to act in a certain way,” Sergei Lebedev said.
He underlined that the CIS mission is satisfied that the elections were properly organized. He personally visited four oblasts – the Brest, Gomel, Mogilev and Minsk ones, talked to voters and asked what they thought of the elections. There were no instances of the violation of their electoral rights or the obstacles preventing them from expressing their will. “All this made us arrive at a conclusion that the elections in Belarus were free, democratic and in compliance with the national and international regulations,” Sergei Lebedev added.
Alexander Lukashenko thanked the CIS observers for their objective evaluation of the elections. The President underlined that no elections are perfect; at the same time an objective was set to hold them in an open and transparent way. “We wanted to show everyone who came here the real situation because the West often says that we have such a tight control over the electoral process that the elections were rigged from beginning to end. We wanted them to see what kind of opposition we have here, the opposition that monopolized the relations with the West, which made the West talk to us using the language of the opposition. It is very important that they see the real situation,” the Belarusian Head of State said.
The President underlined that he was glad to hear the positive evaluation of the elections given by head of the OSCE PA monitoring mission Anne-Marie Lizin. At the meeting with the head of the OSCE PA monitoring mission, Alexander Lukashenko said that Belarus will not establish good relations with Europe at the expense of the worse relations with Russia.
Alexander Lukashenko assured that the suggestions proposed by the observers will be taken into consideration. The next elections will be flawless from the point of view of the electoral process, the Belarusian Head of State underlined.
Belarusian MP's Support Russian Recognition of South Ossetian Independence.
Minsk - Belarusian MPs on Tuesday said they supported Russia's move to accept the independence of the renegade Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Belapan news agency reported. "I think it was an absolutely correct decision," said Sergei Kostian, a member of the parliament international affairs committee. "All responsible people should support Russia, so as to put an end to the unilateral influence in the world of the US and the European Union."
Kostian echoed earlier Kremlin statements, drawing a parallel between international recognition of Kosovo's independence, and Russia's recognition of South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence.
"Have the US and the West forgotten, how they accepted Kosovo's independence, how they bombed Yugoslavia, are bombing Iraq, and have forgotten Afghanistan?" he asked.
"Russia has irrevocably got up off of her knees," said MP Sergei Gaidukevich.
"(Russia) has announced that she is a major state able to influence the geopolitical situation in the world ... and she has begun to act using the language of the US, on the basis of her interests, without worrying about the dissatisfaction of other countries," Gaidukevich said.
Belarus and Venezuela Vow to Fight Imperialism.
The Belarusian president gave an award to the Venezuelan leader and asked him to look after himself
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez, vowed to work with Belarus to defeat "hegemonic" US imperialism.
The Belarusian President, who was described by Chávez as a "brother" has also long railed against the influence of the United States in world affairs. However, some Western nations accuse Lukashenko of flouting freedom of speech and assembly in 14 years in power.
"You and I are fighting against the same enemy. Our peoples are struggling against the same adversary: Imperialism; we have to name it correctly: US imperialism and countries which serve as lackeys of that imperialism," Chávez said after receiving the "Friendship of Nations" award from the Belarusian leader, Reuters reported.
"Fortunately, the imperialist hegemonic aim has collapsed. American imperialism will continue to fall," Chávez added.
Lukashenko was more reserved during the ceremony held in a square named after Venezuelan hero Simón Bolívar, praising Belarus' alliance with Venezuela and calling for the creation of a "multi-polar" world.
"No president of any other country has done as much as this man for our country since our independence," he said, referring to Chávez. "No one deserves this award more than you, Hugo. Please look after yourself," Lukashenko said.
April 29th 2008: President Lukashenko's State of the Nation Address.
Distinguished deputies of the House of Representatives and members of the Council of the Republic,
This year has been declared the Year of Health in our country. Its real meaning should not be understood simplistically, exclusively through the prism of physical condition of man.
The underlying concept is that this is the Year of Health of man, family, the society and the entire state.
People’s health depends mainly on the quality of life, level of intellectual and spiritual development, on family comfort.
A society is healthy when it is not riven by disconnection, spite, enmity and moral degradation from the inside.
A state flourishes if there is wellbeing of its citizens, consent in the society, purposefulness of the whole nation.
Over the last decade and a half, we were trying to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment and world economy while defending our sovereignty after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. We were making up for what was missed and lost in the late 1980s – early 1990s. Our main objective was to fight the “chronic diseases” which could lead to a fatal outcome.
The sovereign Belarus has now become a reality. We have built a strong foundation which enables us to develop energetically and efficiently in all areas. The course of history has proved that we were doing everything right, and therefore have achieved much. According to the UN human development index, our country stands at the junction of the groups of countries with a medium and high level of development.
But it is impossible to ignore the fact that the world around us is changing. We cannot fall by the wayside in this development.
And it is important not just to be prepared to operate in a changing environment, not only to meet the requirements of the new time. We should do our utmost so that Belarus could leave the group of the catching up and join the group of the leading, while at the same time preserving the chosen and time-tested economic course, social security for our people.
It is time for us to stop orienting toward those lagging behind. Using sport terminology, I will put it this way: you should enter a competition first, and then compete for the leading position.
Belarus needs a qualitative breakthrough, a new quality of life .
Our main competitive advantage and the most important source of the country’s development today is our people.
Source: Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus.
April 25th 2008: Regarding Rising Food Prices.
The following is from a Belarusian Telagraph Agency press release. Of note is the fact that it illustrates how the Belarusian economic and social model allows the government to directly protect its citizens.
The increase in prices for farm produce will be compensated by the rise in wages, President Alexander Lukashenko said when visiting the Stolin region of the Brest oblast on April 25.
According to the head of state, Belarus should make use of the growing demand and prices for farm products worldwide. “In rich Europe, in America the prices for agricultural products have risen significantly. This is good for Belarus. Our agricultural workers will be able to get twice as much for their products. Naturally the processes going on in the world trigger an increase in prices here, you wouldn’t escape this. Having earned two times as much we should meet all salary targets set in the rural revival programme. In the near future we will revise the wages in the agricultural industry,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
“If you increase prices for products, increase wages to people. Then there will be no need to restrain prices in shops. We will not be able to restrain them otherwise all our cheap products will leak abroad as in some neighboring countries the prices are twice as high. It is impossible to restrain prices artificially. We have learnt this lesson,” the President said,
Alexander Lukashenko added that Belarus will take measures to protect interests of people in this situation.
Source: Belarusian Telegraph Agency.
April 2008. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Secretary Andrei Popov Responding to Media Questions.
Reuters: Today the US Department of State spokesman said that the US considered the Belarusian demand to cut the US Embassy staff to be groundless. In view of this, has the Foreign Ministry received any formal note from the US Embassy in Minsk? Does the Foreign Ministry continue to stand by its demand and will it do so? What are the further actions supposed to be on the part of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry?
Answer.: I would like to stress, in the first place, that we are certainly aware of those assertions brought forward by the US Department of State spokesman. Frankly, we have noted that that document contains a number of expressions, so to say, that have little to do with civilized diplomatic practices, as a matter of fact. We would not like to go further into detailed comments – let it lie heavy on the author’s conscience.
For this particular reason I would have every right to say that that document, those expressions were hardly an “unputdownable” to us.
As regards the assertion about so-called “groundlessness” or, to use the original wording, “inadequacy” of our actions, I’d like to remind yet again that the actions of the Republic of Belarus were, first and foremost, reciprocal and fully adequate to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
As for the adequacy of the US actions that came down to unilateral economic coercion targeting our country, it is obvious to everyone that US side thereby breached all thinkable and unthinkable international standards and rules, ranging from UN General Assembly resolutions to direct bilateral agreements between the Republic of Belarus and the United States.
In this respect, the proposition of the Belarusian side, of which we spoke a few days ago, to reduce US diplomatic presence in Minsk remains to be in force. Naturally and reasonably, in the same manner the Belarusian side remains committed to its demand to unconditionally lift all economic restrictions targeting Belarusian businesses as a foundation to addressing the Belarus-US relations.
“Vremya Novostei” Newspaper: Karen Stewart said last week that the US was conducting consultations with Europeans about the possible introduction of sanctions by Europe that would affect Belarus. If my memory doesn’t fail me, several members of the European Parliament were speaking to the same effect. Yesterday we heard news that Belneftekhim branch in Lithuania was already facing problems.
How do you think? Are the sanctions likely to come from Europe? And what may be their consequences for the Belarusian economy in the relations with Europe?
Answer: We have always stressed that it is extremely hard for us to speculate and comment on the intentions of third countries. I reckon it would be more reasonable to seek questions about their intentions directly from our international partners.
However, all of our international partners are well aware of our position of principle with regard to any type of sanctions. This is an utterly unacceptable and entirely counter-productive tool of communication, from the point of view of civilized international relations.
Prime-TASS: Given the arrangements on agreed foreign policies made under the Union State of Belarus and Russia and support expressed by Prime Minister Zubkov on 21st [March] to the Belarusian side pertaining to the Belneftekhim sanctions, is there any agreement between the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and the Russian side regarding particular steps in response to the Belneftekhim sanctions?
Answer: I can only say that – and this is not a secret – the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation have over many years operated a Programme of Concerted Actions in Foreign Policy. That is a document approved by the heads of our two countries every two years. Certainly, that document presupposes – and there’s nothing improper about it in terms of normal international and diplomatic practice – that Belarus and Russia discuss a variety of international problems of shared interest for our two countries.
Therefore, I gather that there are possibilities for Belarus and Russia to also discuss the topic you have mentioned within the framework of this tool. This is an absolutely legitimate, absolutely lawful possibility based on the agreements that are in place between our countries.
«Radio Svaboda»: I would like to ask for more details. Concerning all those rows unfolding between the diplomats of Minsk and Washington: are we talking about the staff reduction… are we talking solely of the Embassy staff, of the US Embassy in Minsk and of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington? Or, in a way, does either of the side involve the number of staff of the Belarusian Permanent Representation to the UN in New York? I wonder if the UN is “outside the brackets” here.
Answer: You know, we can only confirm that the propositions of which we spoke a few days ago are put across to the US side. Indeed, those propositions contain indications of numbers and conditions of the proposition lodged by the Belarusian side with the United States. As for specific details in those propositions, they are subject to bilateral examination. And we wouldn’t like to consider them in public.
BelaPAN: It has become known that Donald Tusk [Prime Minister of Poland] has given his consent to the “trans-border law” (this is how it is called in Polish) which presupposes that Belarus residents of the cross-border areas may cross the border on a preferential basis. I wonder if the signing of a bilateral agreement between Belarus and Poland may follow in this relation. When will it happen and what progress has been achieved?
Answer: Thank you, this is an interesting and timely question, from our perspective.
Before I answer, I would like to remind that it was the Belarusian side that came out in the spring last year with a so-called “Package of Initiatives” to develop and strengthen the Belarus-Poland dialogue.
One of the elements of the “Package of Initiatives” was the very possibility to simplify mutual travels on a bilateral basis that you have mentioned.
As for the document that was reported by the media to be signed by the Polish Prime Minister yesterday, we have not received it officially yet from our Polish colleagues. I reckon, though, that once we have it we will give it the most thorough consideration since we have been dealing with this thing for more than one year, including in conjunction with our Polish colleagues.
Therefore, clearly, we will give it some thought. As soon as we work out a mutually acceptable formula, we will certainly let you know.
I gather we can get ahead with this very important issue. Anyway, the efforts put in place by our Polish colleagues answer to the shared interests of the two countries, from our point of view.
“Vremya Novostei” Newspaper: I would like to clarify one thing. The MFA comments and those of the Belarusian officials say that by introducing sanctions against Belarus the United States found itself in breach of the provisions of the agreement on the removal of nuclear weapons from our country. Does it mean that failure to lift the sanctions will make Belarus review its nuclear-free status?
Answer: To answer your question, I can only reiterate what we said before, what we put across officially and publicly. By stepping up unilateral economic restrictions targeting Belarusian businesses the United States has undermined in a very drastic manner its trustworthiness as an international partner.
And thus we can see a rhetoric question coming. Can we trust the United States in future, including in such a sensitive area as nuclear non-proliferation?
That is all to what I can tell you now.
«Stolichnoye» TV: Why has the Belarusian side decided against attending the Council of Euro-Atlantic Partnership Meeting?
Answer: As you know, yesterday we issued a special statement in this relation. I mean the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The text of the statement, to our mind, is rather conspicuous.
I would like to remind yet again that the fundamental documents of the Council of Euro-Atlantic Partnership adopted more than 10 years ago in Sintra directly indicate that all member states are absolutely equal in their status within this structure, both in terms of their rights and their commitments.
Therefore, the decision made against Belarus to limit the level of our representation in that event is in direct conflict both with that fundamental document and with normal rationale.
Based on that, Belarus has decided against attending that event as a matter of principle. We believe the nature of principle is apparent, I told you this already.
As for the intended level of our participation in the event, I would be utterly frank to say that it was totally adequate to the current level of interaction between the Republic of Belarus and NATO.
Source: Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.
March 2008: Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release re: Further US sanctions against Belneftekhim.
Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus with Regard to the Introduction by the US of Additional Economic Restrictions Targeting Enterprises of the Belneftekhim Concern
Over a rather long period of time, the Republic of Belarus has made a number of consistent and constructive steps to normalize relations with the European Union and the United States, pursuant to the agreements with our Western partners.
However, one of the participants of the dialogue, the US, having ignored the prior agreements, breached an agreed scheme of actions to normalize relations and introduced additional economic restrictions targeting enterprises of the Belneftekhim concern.
The Belarusian side declares that Belarus will reciprocate by stepping up tough measures. The American side was previously advised of the nature of those measures. One of those measures will be the recalling of the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to the US, Mikhail Khvostov, to Minsk for consultations. At the same time, the Government of the Republic of Belarus insistently suggests that the Ambassador of the United States in Minsk, Karen Stewart, should leave our country to the same end.
The Belarusian side underscores, specifically, that by signing the Helsinki Final Act, the US as well as other OSCE member states has committed itself to “refraining in all circumstances from any act of economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating State of the rights inherent in its sovereignty”. The latest steps of the US Administration towards Belarus are in direct breach of that commitment and in defiance of other OSCE members.
We are forced to state yet another time that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe which we are strongly convinced should be an efficient tool designed to defend the rights and interests of its member states falls short of exercising its immediate mandate in this situation and fails to respond to the gross violation of the fundamental principles of the Organization on the part of the American Administration.
Belarus demands that the OSCE should take immediate action to efficiently ensure the exercise of the fundamental principles of the Organization and its international commitments by this member state.
If it does not happen, we will have to profoundly contemplate the manner in which we should continue to build our relations with this Organization.
The US actions are in gross violation of the 1994 Memorandum, which committed the United States to respect independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, and, in particular, not to exert any economic pressure on it in exchange for the voluntary renunciation by our country of the possession of nuclear weapons. Belarus urges the UK and the Russian Federation as the guarantors of its accession to the Memorandum to take immediate action to ensure that the Memorandum commitments are met with by all of its members. The Republic of Belarus underlines that United States’ violation of the Memorandum provisions radically undermines US trustworthiness as a partner. Can anyone trust the US after all, all the more so, in such a strategic cause as non-proliferation of nuclear weapons?
The US actions also arouse rightful indignation since they have been carried out notwithstanding the UN General Assembly resolution 62/183, which sets forth that “no state can either exert or encourage unilateral economic, political or any other measures aimed at subordinating another state which exercises its sovereign rights”. Moreover, the UNGA resolution 62/162 “Human rights and unilateral measures of compulsion” “insistently calls upon all states to stop taking or exerting any unilateral measures, in particular, measures of compulsion with all the following exterritorial consequences, which contradict international law and the UN Charter as well as the norms and principles regulating peaceful relations between states”.
The Republic of Belarus will continue to be guided in its activities by the common international principles and its own laws.
February 2008: President Lukashenko on Diplomacy.
President Lukashenko met the German ambassador to Belarus on the last day of January, where he discussed the internal affairs of Belarus, and its desire to be treated with objectivity and respect.
The following text is from the Belarusian Legal Internet Portal press release.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko believes views of certain European ambassadors on Belarus are paradoxical. The President made the corresponding statement as he met with Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Belarus Gebhardt Weiss on January 31.
“Our meeting should be honest, plain-speaking and, most importantly, sincere,” the President told the Ambassador. “I would like to thank you for your mission in our country. I know the meeting will raise certain displeasure with several colleagues of yours in Belarus. But we have nothing to hide. I am thankful for your attitude. I know you are having a hard time”.
According to the Belarusian head of state, the goal of an ambassador in the host country is to establish normal friendly relations between his home country and the host country. “Regretfully Western ambassadors lack this desire,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko. “We have a paradox as a result”. The President explained, in private the ambassadors always sincerely approved of what is going on in Belarus. They are satisfied with the stability in the country, it is advantageous for them. But when “we hear official statements some ambassadors make and see their real actions, it is very sad,” said the President.
Alexander Lukashenko noted, he does not completely understand the role of ambassadors of the European Union states and the USA and would like to be clear on it. “This is why I sometimes speak harshly. Belarus is a sovereign independent country and has been such a country for fifteen years. It is a fact that the country is stable and makes no troubles to anyone — neither the neighbouring countries nor Germany, nor France, nor the USA. What do they want from us then?” wondered the President.
The head of state also underscored, he is ready to hear out any proposals of the German Ambassador. “You should say what you don’t like and what you would like to change. I will try to respond to what you’ll say,” said Alexander Lukashenko.
During the meeting the Ambassador suggested looking forth instead of looking back. “The forthcoming months before the elections will be to a certain extent decisive for Belarus and its status in Europe. In view of these events if the process goes on, a new situation may emerge,” he said.
This rational and open attitude to diplomacy should be compared with the hysterics eminating from other world leaders and ambassadors covered previously.
January 2008: President Lukashenko’s New Year Message.
It is appropriate to begin 2008 with the full text of President Lukashenko’s New Year address to the people of Belarus.
New Year is a family holiday, not only for a family of relatives but for all of us, one big family – the people of Belarus.
It is in this very moment when we feel our special unity: a worker and the President, a farmer and a sole trader, a director of the plant and a teacher, a doctor and a serviceman.
We are a nation. A nation that does not split by the political struggle and property redistribution, but a nation united by the common goal to develop our Motherland. People, who let distemper enter their homes, are doomed to extinction.
Every year brings its successes and its problems. Before the clock strikes we recollect both.
Frankly speaking, the outgoing year has been the most difficult in the history of our young state. Tough political and economic pressure, various sanctions, flows of lies and disinformation.
Leaders of some countries in order to draw the attention away from their domestic problems have suddenly become “concerned” with the situation in Belarus having forgotten that the matter concerns a sovereign European nation rather than some state in their own country.
Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan and the former Soviet Union have shown where such “democratisation” lead to. Endless political intrigues, corruption, economic recession, overall decline. But the most important thing is that these countries have become fully dependent on their “teachers”.
They cannot forgive us that Belarus, whose independence is hard won, does not agree to become their puppet.
The increase in energy prices has become a real trial for our economy. It is obvious: judging by its consequences, that blow was so hard that it could throw any economy into collapse.
However we did not allow them to make us kneel. Hardships only make the strong stronger. We have not just held out. We have ensured development of our country.
Diligence, courage, wisdom of the Belarusian people deserve the deepest appreciation!
Those, who threatened us with inevitable collapse, did not take into account the most important thing: we have become a united and solid nation – young, energetic with strong will.
While winning sovereignty and overcoming inconceivable difficulties, the Belarusian people have become stronger and now are ready to protect their own way of development.
Hardships made us learn to live within our means, treat our Motherland with love and respect.
We have left behind the period of survival. Today we face new tasks – rapid and innovative development of the economy.
This year has seen 24 new manufacturing enterprises. Agriculture has gained sustainable development.
The year of 2007 will go down in history with Belarusian oil developed for the first time on the American continent. We create new industries within the country as well as outside it. We have already invested in Venezuela, China, Iran, other countries. Belarusian trademarks have statred acquiring world recognition.
The year of 2007, being declared the Year of Child, has brought us the most wonderful news. The number of children has considerably increased.
I would like to thank our women, mothers who give life not only to children but rather to our country.
It is remarkable that there are a lot of families with three and more children in Belarus. The fact proves that parents are confident in the future of their children and in the future of Belarus.
It is clear that the next year will bring new problems.
But the country will keep on advancing.
We will speed up housing construction, revive small towns and villages, create favourable living conditions.
The next year is going to put an end to the red tape. The state will ensure the growth of wages, pensions, scholarships. Special attention will be turned to the socially vulnerable and people with low incomes.
But the most significant thing is the health of people.
Therefore the year of 2008 will be declared the Year of Health. The major efforts will be aimed at developing the medicine, education, sports, healthy way of life, protection of ecology and moral values.
The Lord gave us this wonderful land full of spiritual beauty. Let protect and take care of our country.
Leave behind loneliness, hardship and grief.
Open your hearts for love, good, sympathy and mutual understanding.
With all my heart I wish you happiness, good luck, every success, peace and welfare.
Happy New Year!”
Belarus Solidarity Campaign Letter to the Morning Star Newspaper.
The following letter was sent to the Morning Star Newspaper in the UK following the announcement of further US sanctions (see below). We urge all members, and supporters to send a copy to their respective MP, MEP, or Congressman. Please also see the further comments from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry about the illegal nature of the US sanctions, which can be read here
On Tuesday the 13th of November the US Treasury Department acting on pretexts gained from the Department of State raised further sanctions against the Republic of Belarus. The target of these sanctions, according to the US, is President “Lukashenko and his cronies”. The specific victim of the sanctions is the state owned oil company, Belneftekhim. Unsurprisingly the US once again makes a play for the control of natural resources under the banner of ‘spreading democracy’. However as Lukashenko said in 2002, that some did “not need their freedom, drenched in blood and smelling of oil”. Belarus is a much misunderstood and maligned country, and this is certainly no accident. President Lukashenko is easily labelled Europe’s last dictator by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice because there has been so little objective reporting of Belarus, additionally some $7.5 million is allocated specifically for broadcasting misinformation, and ‘anti Lukashenko media’.
The fact is that Belarus retains around 80% state ownership within the economy, thus guaranteeing the highest spending in terms of % of GDP on health and education in the region, (even beating the US and UK in education spending). The Belarusian socially oriented economy has also resulted in an unemployment rate of around 1%, as well as cutting inflation and raising real wages and pensions. The latest sanctions from the US do not hit “Lukashenko and his cronies” because they do not own the oil company in question. Belneftekhim works hand in hand with the trade unions building houses for its workers (some 120,000 people), and providing subsidies to the agrarian sector, as well as funds for social projects including Chernobyl charities. These sanctions, presumably aimed at pushing privatisation in Belarus will hit the disadvantaged and working people hardest, and ought to be condemned by all.
For more information please see www.belarussolidaritycampaign.co.uk
Radio Belarus Extends Airtime.
The following is from a Press Release of the Belarusian Embassy in the USA. Click on website of Radio Belarus below for more information.
Radio Belarus extends on-air broadcasting as the new broadcasting season begins.
Starting from September, Radio Belarus’ airtime makes 26 hours daily, including 16 hours of air broadcasts and 10 hours of Internet broadcasts in English in real-time mode.
Radio Belarus celebrates this year its 45th Anniversary and the first Anniversary since its web site www.radiobelarus.tvr.by has been launched. Today Radio Belarus’ Internet broadcasts are available planet wide in Belarusian, Russian, English, German and Polish.
Radio Belarus has prepared over 30 new shows for the new broadcasting season including the following:
- “Firsthand News” – analytical program with comments by political scientists, representatives of authorities and experts on the most important issues of domestic and foreign policy of Belarus;
- “From Parliament Hall” – broadcasts, which highlight activities of the National Assembly of Belarus;
- “Alma Mater” – project, which outlines the government’s policy in the field of education and gets listeners familiar with Belarusian universities, as well as with terms of enrollment by foreigners;
- “Round Dance” – Educational program for children of compatriots residing abroad, which gets listeners familiar with amateur and folk arts, works of the Belarusian writers, as well as with interesting facts about Belarus;
- “From the Gold Fund of the Belarusian Radio” – program, which provides listeners with the best records of musical compositions from the Belarusian radio fund.
Radio Belarus is a source of objective and full information about Belarus on air and in the Internet.
September 2007: Belarus no longer reliant on Russian energy.
Due to the thirst for profit that drives private companies and the 'free market' Belarus has increasingly been held to ransom by its fuel suppliers. The proposed Belarus-Russia Union has floundered due to resistance on the Russian side to acknowledge Belarus as an equal partner, and more so by the financial pressure applied by Russian fuel companies Gazprom and Sibneft. The desire to squeeze every last penny out of the Belarusians for essential fuel has been motivated by the success of the Belarusian economy, and its continued economic growth. Predatory companies recognise the level of state spending in Belarus means that the government could pay more for its fuel, at the cost of its people. As such Belarus has negotiated difficult deals and agreements with its Russian neighbour, but not at any cost. President Lukashenko declared in late 2005 that he would not allow "Russia's hoof to smash the social policy of Belarus".
Thus it is not surprising that Belarus has sought more reliable partners, and in the case of Venezuela one with which it shares a great ideological affinity. In a new 12 year energy security bill Belarus has decided that Iran, Venezuela and some Caspian littoral states will be the main suppliers of oil and gas to Belarus. The outcome of which will be continued independence for Belarus, and vitally a guarantee of affordable and reliable energy supplies for the Belarusian people.
Belarus maintains its financial independence.
Despite the crowing in the anti-Lukashenko media that the Belarusian economy was teetering on the edge of disaster Belarus has managed to maintain a hard currency reserve of some $3 billion (USD) following its payment to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.
Belarus paid some £460 million dollars to the Russian company for gas supplies in the first half of 2007, to widespread speculation that the Belarusian economy and social system would not be able to survive the outlay. Indeed President Lukashenko warned Belarusians that ‘belts would need to be tightened’. However planning in the economy has enabled Belarus to both pay the debt, maintain its social guarantees (including an increase in the state pension), and also maintaining a reserve. Central bank Chairman Pyotr Prokopovich noted that this reserve will also serve to ensure the stability of prices and also the national currency (and thus protect people’s savings).
September 2007: International Gay Lesbian Youth Group Report on Belarus.
The International Gay and Lesbian Youth Group chose to hold its quarterly board meeting in Minsk Belarus last weekend. Their report is enlightening, as they went to Belarus believing in the myth of an oppressive police state and came away saying their “fears were needless”. The full report can be found here
, but here are some key quotes:
“We were prepared for grey streets, gloomy post-Soviet squares, cheerless people, little welfare and a regime being somehow visible at every corner of every street. But the Minsk we saw had nothing of that at all. The contrast seemed big. Prosperity, welfare, happy looking people walking on wide avenues surrounded by stylish classical buildings
“Whereas Lonely Planet writes about a public governmental repression of LGBT people, Belarusian activists talk about their country as being one of the most tolerant in post-Soviet space and a slow but nevertheless sensible change in regards to LGBT acceptance and visibility. There is no active repression of LGBT groups, the government even has opened dialogue with community representatives in the framework of an HIV/Aids project
This report highlights the overwhelming misinformation campaign being waged against the reality of the cultural and political situation in Belarus. Typically, as with international election observers this independent body has had its opinion of Belarus completely reversed by a first hand visit.
On August the 3rd 2007 the US Department of State extended the existing travel restrictions on Belarusian officials. The travel ban in place already covered senior government members and of course Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
These measures highlighted the reluctance of the US side to enter into an open and honest dialogue with Belarus, and the intention of restricting the Belarusian ‘right to reply’.
The new restrictions are even more sweeping and are made in the interests of promoting ‘human rights and democracy’. The extended list is detailed below, with the key additions being the directors and deputy directors of state owned companies. (A wide hitting sanction in terms of the Belarusian economy and of no relevance to the democratic process in Belarus). Also any member of the central election commission again shows the unwillingness to work with the Belarusians on an equal footing, but rather to dismiss them and suppress the opportunity for objective discussion. Other restrictions are presumably aimed at controlling who qualifies as diplomatic staff.
Minsk has threatened reciprocal measures, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Vanshyna commented: "We have repeatedly said that such decisions are counterproductive and hopeless. This policy has played itself out. It is a thing of the past century," furthermore "the consistent restriction of contacts by the American government in the era of globalisation is not and cannot be a measure conducive to the achievement of mutual understanding and the development of bilateral relations".
The use of the word ‘globalisation’ is interesting here as it highlights one of the main reasons for US hostility to Belarus: the control of markets and resources.
The success of the independent Belarusian model of development, and close links with countries such as Cuba and Venezuela also explain the reluctance of the US to see Belarusian ‘ideology officers’ travelling abroad.
The extended list of restrictions according to Presidential Proclamation 8015:
It also ought top be noted that the Belarusian GDP grew by 8.9%over the first six months of 2007, and thus social spending increased by the same.
On the morning of the 25th of July 2007 the Belarus Solidarity Campaign organised a demonstration in Parliament Square London, Under the Banner of "
The demonstration was attended by UK writer and political activist Mark Thomas. (