President visits MTZ, BY backs off flyover ban, Lukoil, Nukes, small business, G8, Rubles, Gazprom to quadruple prices? Ljungvall tracks Lukashenka
From the Top
President to Minsk Tractor works: Nobody can beat us: neither American, nor European or other companies
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko positively evaluates export activities of the Minsk Tractor Works. All in all, the company has exported more than 1 million of tractors to more than 100 countries, the president noted when delivering a speech at a meeting dedicated to the company’s 60th anniversary.
According to the president, MTZ exports have been steadily increasing. They soared 5 times over the last five years.
Alexander Lukashenko added that export of tractors is one of the most important sources of foreign currency revenues in Belarus.
According to the president, the Minsk Tractor Works plans to produce about 50,000 tractors this year. In 2005 the output totaled 42,000 tractors while in 1993 – 27,000.
Over the 60 years of its existence MTZ produced more than 3,300,000 tractors.
The head of state was shown samples of new farm machines, produced by the captain of the Belarusian economy. In particular Alexander Lukashenko saw a new tractor “Belarus-4520”. According to MTZ general director Alexander Pukhovoy, this 450 hp novelty of the Belarusian mechanical engineering was created in the shortest possible time – almost in two years. It has no analogues in the CIS member-states. The new tractor has a “Detroit Diesel” engine. According to Alexander Pukhovoy, in autumn this machine with a new 12-bottomed plough will be tested in the fields. The tractor was designed to cultivate big areas of agricultural land.
More than 40 tractors, forestry and municipal machines and seven ploughs are presented at the exhibition. Among the novelties is a tractor with caterpillar trolleys.
According to the head of state when entering new markets “it is necessary to keep in mind that foreign customers prefer goods of supreme quality”.
Alexander Lukashenko confirmed that the country’s authorities will help the plant to strengthen its positions on foreign markets.
The president positively evaluated MTZ social policy, i.e. creation of new jobs, care of material welfare of its employees. Significant funds are allocated to improve the working environment as well as to organize recreational and leisure activities of employees and their families. The plant does not leave behind 7,000 labour and war veterans.
“You have proved that we can meet the targets even under the most difficult circumstances. The main thing is to be conscientious, responsible and enterprising,” the president said.
“I am grateful to the personnel of the Minsk Tractor Works: I wanted all companies in the republic to orient towards your work style and behavior. When the works got into a difficult financial situation I did everything to save it. I thought: if MTZ overcomes the economic crisis we will be able to save other companies following its example”, the president underlined. “Thank you for showing what path to go, restoring economy and ensuring sovereignty and independence of our state”.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, the leadership of Belarus has managed to preserve the production sector. “We raised virtually all companies to the world production level. Many enterprises increased their output two-three times and showed we can make competitive products and nobody can beat us: neither American, nor European or other companies”, the president added.
Belarus parliament amends citizenship law
A bill amending the citizenship law has passed the second reading at the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly today.
While presenting the bill to the parliament, Belarusian interior minister Vladimir Naumov noted, over the last ten years the institution of citizenship had changed a lot, acquired new features, which are accounted for by the expanding international relations of Belarus with other countries in the CIS space and the world. Several clauses of the existing citizenship law should be changed to allow for four years of its application and state policy priorities.
In particular, the bill improves the procedure of acquisition of nationality by birth. The minister noted, the situation in this field is especially complicated. Vladimir Naumov informed, at present a child, who is born abroad and who has a foreign parent, is automatically granted the citizenship by soil. The agreement of the second parent (a citizen of the Republic of Belarus) is not required. However paradoxical it may seem, the effective Belarusian legislation protects interests of foreigners, as both the parents are required to file an application for citizenship for their child to get the Belarusian citizenship. Vladimir Naumov noted, without the agreement of a parent the child cannot get the Belarusian citizenship. The amendments will protect rights of Belarusian citizens by simplifying the citizenship acquisition: the agreement of the foreign parent will no longer be required.
In line with the amendments the acquisition of the Belarusian citizenship will no longer be a formal procedure, but the right of the sovereign state to grant the citizenship taking into account the country's interests. According to the source, "Meeting certain conditions will not automatically grant the Belarusian citizenship. The conditions will be the basis for filing an application for the citizenship". Vladimir Naumov explained, the bill introduces the notion "qualifying period of residence", which includes such criteria as uninterrupted residence in Belarus. Foreigners, who leave Belarus for no longer than three months every seven years, will be able to file citizenship applications. Seven years is the period entitling a foreigner to request citizenship. The existing law allows citizens to live and work abroad for a long time after getting the permanent residence permit and after seven years claim their right for the citizenship.
The bill changes approaches to the simplified citizenship acquisition. According to Vladimir Naumov, the procedure saved destinies of thousands of Belarusians, who were left abroad in 1991. The minister believes, the old regulations have accomplished their mission. Over 15 years the majority of those, who believed themselves to be part of the Belarusian nation, have got the citizenship. All in all, over 200,000 Belarusian compatriots have been granted the Belarusian citizenship.
The bill obliges the applicant to return to live in Belarus in addition to confirming the fact that the applicant was born in Belarus or lived in Belarus earlier.
The amendments to the citizenship law exclude possibilities of getting the Belarusian citizenship for personal benefit and create a barrier to fictitious marriages of Belarusians with foreigners.
Belarus ban only affects government flights from Canada, U.S.
From: CBC News
Only government flights from Canada and the United States will be banned from entering Belarus's airspace while civilian ones can continue, an official from the former Soviet republic clarified on Wednesday.
President Alexander Lukashenko announced plans for the ban after the United States and Canada both refused to allow a diplomatic flight from Belarus to land and refuel in mid-April.
The extent of the ban hadn't been made clear until Wednesday, when a spokesperson for the Belarusian foreign military department said it only applied to official delegations.
"I believe this would not apply to civil aircraft. Some sort of restrictions would apply to official delegations. We will be selective," said the spokesman, who was not identified by Reuters.
"It will be a reciprocal measure against individuals who have been shown not to wish Belarus well."
The official said the only exceptions would be aircraft carrying U.S. President George W. Bush.
"I believe we would, of course, let through an aircraft carrying Bush," he said.
The April 20 flight that sparked the dispute had been carrying Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky and other government officials on an official visit to Cuba.
Belarus, Lukoil form joint oil venture
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko met Monday with head of Russia's Lukoil to boost cooperation on several energy projects.
Lukashenko held meetings with Lukoil chief Vagit Alekperov to discuss increasing cooperation and implementing several projects this January. The two parties have agreed to plan a joint venture for the production of additives to engine oils, Belarusian television reported.
Lukoil has become one of the biggest buyers of Belarusian mechanical engineering products. Alekperov said that new frontiers were being shaped and that both Belarus and the Russian oil company have many common interests.
Belarus drafts concept of nuclear power plant construction
From: Ria Novosti
Belarus scientists have drafted a concept for building a nuclear power plant in the republic, a senior researcher said Wednesday.
But Oleg Martynenko, head of the Energy Strategy enterprise, said a decision on the NPP, which would take an estimated 10 years to build and would cost $2.5 billion, had not yet been made.
Martynenko said a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,000 megawatts was the best option for Belarus and researchers suggested the cost price of a kilowatt of power would be $0.017 after the NNP is commissioned.
Vladimir Bobrov, the head of the strategic development department at the Belarus Energy Ministry, said in turn that the share of nuclear energy in the republic's fuel and energy balance could rise to 20% and the share of natural gas could decline to 50% by 2020.
Experts said a nuclear power plant would enable the republic to bring the share of nuclear energy to 85% in the republic's fuel and energy balance by 2050.
Belarus government says high pace of economic growth persists
From: Itar Tass
The Belarussian government states that high rates of the country’s economic growth continue.
“Fourteen out of the 16 parameters of the social and economic development have been met for January- April of this year, except for the import of goods and services and energy intensity of GDP,” Andrei Kobyakov, the deputy prime minister, told parliament on Wednesday.
He said the inflation rate from the beginning of the year made up 2.5 percent, with the average monthly inflation being 0.6-0.7 percent. “Inflation is kept within the forecast limit,” he said.
Meanwhile Kobyakov pointed to the need to enhance competitiveness of Belarussian commodities.
IFC: Complex Administrative Procedures Hold Back the Small Business Sector in Belarus
The business climate in Belarus has not improved over the past year, according to nearly 80 percent of entrepreneurs polled for the International Finance Corporation’s annual business environment survey in the country.
The IFC survey also reveals that tax administration and permit issuance were significant barriers for Belarus’s business community in 2005. Issuance of a permit became significantly more difficult, with both time and cost doubling in comparison with figures from 2004. In Belarus, it now takes just under four months and costs $345 to obtain a permit. The typical small or medium enterprise has to obtain a total of six permits to operate in Belarus.
The unwieldy tax system also exacts a high cost on entrepreneurs: private firms in Belarus spent about $15 million paying accountants for overtime work in 2005. This figure is ten times higher than the amount the government allocates to promotion of private enterprise development.
There were, in contrast, some positive developments in inspections and licensing in 2005. The average amount of time needed to obtain a license dropped from 45 to 27 working days. Meanwhile, the frequency of inspections also decreased: the average smaller business hosted seven separate inspections in 2005, down from ten the previous year.
People in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine consider life in Georgia to be dangerous
On May 30, 2006, “Catastrophic consciousness in the post-Soviet space: What do former Soviet citizens fear for?” press conference was held in Moscow. Outcomes of the fifth polling wave, conducted within international Eurasian Monitor Project, in the framework of main indices’ monitoring of post-Soviet states public opinions were presented at it, a REGNUM correspondent informs.
The EM project is realized by Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Kazakhstan research companies. Polls of the fifth wave were carried out in April-May 2006, to research how social threats and risks are perceived by populations of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Executive Director of International Eurasian Monitor Research Agency Igor Zadorin, VTsIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center) Research Director Vladimir Petukhov, and TsIRKON Research Group Deputy Head Lyudmila Shubina presented the research outcomes.
According to the survey results, “common level of anxiety” is rather low in Kazakhstan and Belarus, where majority of respondents believe that life in their countries becomes safer. On the contrary, the index is rather high in Russia and Ukraine. Following phenomena cause main anxieties of all the four countries: criminality growth, unemployment and poverty, moral degradation, corruption and unlawful actions of the authorities.
According to the polls, “invasion of aliens” and “Jewish plot” cause smallest fears.
World-Tunisia defeat Belarus 3-0 in World Cup warm-up
Tunisia boosted their confidence ahead of next month's World Cup by coasting past Belarus 3-0 in a warm-up match on Tuesday.
The Carthage Eagles harried the visiting defence from the start, coming close to scoring four times before a foul on striker Ziad Jaziri by the Belarus goalkeeper in the 35th minute earned a penalty converted by Hamed Namouchi.
The 20,000-strong crowd only had to wait three minutes into the second half before striker Silva Dos Santos scored a second thanks to a precise pass from Riadh Bouazizi.
French coach Roger Lemerre brought off Jaziri and Dos Santos before Tunisia completed victory when Issam Jemaa took advantage of a defensive error in the last minute.
"I was pleasantly surprised by the liveliness of my players," Lemerre told reporters. "It was a good test to prepare for the World Cup."
The only sour note for the home team was the 88th-minute red card given to defender Karim Haggui for a second bookable offence.
Lemerre took Tunisia to the African Nations Cup for the first time in their history in 2004 and has said he hopes his team can reach the second round of the World Cup.
Success would help banish memories of his 2002 flop when in charge of world champions France.
Tunisia, the only North African representatives at the finals, will be making their fourth appearance after featuring in 1978, 1998 and 2002.
Tuesday's friendly was the first game of a mini-tournament pitting Tunisia against teams with styles similar to World Cup Group H opponents Saudi Arabia, Spain and Ukraine.
Russia should not be allowed to take the West for granted in upcoming G8 conference
From: The Daily Times (Pakistan)
St Petersburg is a great place in early summer, when the “White Nights” bathe the city’s imperial palaces and avenues. Small wonder, then, that Russian President Vladimir Putin likes to show off his hometown.
Three years ago, during the Tsarist capital’s 300th anniversary, Putin hosted some 40 heads of state, ranging from George W Bush and Gerhard Schroeder to Belarusian dictator Alexandar Lukashenka and Turkmenistan’s Saparmyrat Nyazov, who styles himself “Turkmenbashi”, the father of Turkmen. Human rights activists questioned the wisdom of endorsing the leader of a growingly authoritarian Russia. Yet Putin managed simultaneously to celebrate his anti-Iraq war cooperation with Europe, have the US swallow this, and be recognised in front of his local minions as a world leader.
This summer, St Petersburg (dubbed by local wits “St Putinsburg”) may see a repeat performance: Russia will preside over a G8 summit for the first time, despite increasing authoritarianism, the ongoing bloody war in Chechnya, and now support for Iran’s nuclear programme.
Deflecting mounting criticism, Bush rejects appeals to boycott the summit. “I need to be in a position where I can sit down with him [Putin] and be very frank about our concerns”, Bush said in late March at Freedom House in Washington.
Is Bush wrong? The question of whether to meet with nasty but powerful people has dogged diplomacy since its inception, and both ends of the question have been argued endlessly — and inconclusively. So it is probably best to examine the merits of each case separately, looking to precedents and agendas for guidance.
Belarus-Russia common currency good for Belarus economy-IMF
From: Itar Tass
A common currency of Belarus and Russia will make the Belarussian economy more efficient, chief of the IMF mission in Belarus and deputy division chief of the IMF European department Balazs Horvath said in Minsk on Tuesday.
A currency union with Russia may help the Belarussian economy a lot, he said. However, the sides should first meet certain conditions, including harmonization of their macro-economic parameters, he said. It is also necessary to level taxes and create equal conditions for business. Belarussian and Russian businessmen should enjoy equal access to each other’s economies, Horvath said.
It is also necessary to sign a bilateral agreement on the Belarussian currency exchange rate to the Russian ruble, he said.
Horvath thinks that Belarus still has to meet these targets.
Gazprom mounting gas pressure on Belarus - paper
From: Ria Novosti
Russian energy giant Gazprom plans to quadruple the natural gas price for Belarus unless the former Soviet republic agrees to sell its main pipelines to Europe, a daily said Tuesday.
Kommersant said that after raising prices for Ukraine, Moldova and Lithuania, Gazprom said it would pursue a European price formula for Belarus from 2007, which would be $200 per 1,000 cubic meters against the current $46.68. Earlier reports suggested that the company was after $147 per 1,000 cu m.
But Alexei Gromov, a senior researcher with the Moscow-based Institute of Natural Monopolies Research, told Kommersant that $200 or more per 1,000 cu m was unrealistic for Belarus: "This offer is designed to put pressure on the country's authorities, who are refusing to let Gazprom take full control of their gas pipeline network."
The paper said Gazprom had offered to compensate partially for the price hikes if Belarusian gas pipeline company Beltransgaz sold the Russian giant its main gas routes.
NAM's Potential Under-utilised, Says Belarus
From: Bernama (Malasia)
The Non-Alignment Movement's (NAM) sole European member, Belarus sees the movement as a very important force in the world but its potential is very much under utilised.
Its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Martynov said NAM needed to adopt a concept of a multipolar and multilateral system, where it can become one of the world's central power, thus limiting superpower dominance.
"We share the same goal as what your foreign minister (Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar) wrote in the theme song, 'NAM Shall Lead The Way'," he told Bernama on the sidelines of the NAM Coordinating Bureau (NAM-CoB) Ministerial Meeting here.
He said NAM needed to become more active and united, therefore Belarus appreciated topics discussed here in Malaysia which touched on cohesiveness and dynamics of NAM.
"The greatest challenge is in the essence of cohesiveness within NAM and its multilateral roles, and of course the underline would be development issues, disarmament issues and others," he said.
Martynov said social economic issues, in relation to the people's needs, should also be actively discussed within NAM to help under-developed countries.
Citing the global digital divide issue as an example, Martynov said the movement must make particular emphasis on the need to rapidly advance NAM countries in information and communication technology.
Martynov said since part of NAM's virtue is diversity, Belarus can provide the European perspective.
Martynov earlier met Syed Hamid in discussing bilateral topics, among others, in enhancing ties between the countries at the top level.
"We would also like to have more economic intercourse with Malaysia," he said adding that Belarus is really thankful for Malaysia's active role and pragmatic approach during its chairmanship in NAM.
Belarus backs Iran in nuclear standoff
From: Irna (Iran)
Belarussian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Tuesday reiterated his country's stance on Iran's right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes within the framework of International Atomic Energy Agency rules and regulations and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Martynov met with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki on the sidelines of a meeting of the Coordination Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which is currently holding a foreign ministerial meeting in Putrajaya, Malysia.
During the meeting, the Iranian and Belarussian ministers discussed avenues for bolstering bilateral cooperation particularly in trade and other economic fields.
The two sides called for activation of the Iran-Belarus Joint Economic Commission, noting an earlier call of their presidents in this regard.
Mottaki praised Belarus for backing up Iran's peaceful nuclear activities.
He also extended an invitation to the Belarussian foreign minister to pay a visit to Iran which Martynov accepted.
Ljungvall goes after Lukashenka with Vengeance
From: Tobias Ljungvall on Belarus
A difficult childhood may sound as a banal explanation of the Belarusian president's leadership style. But it probably played a role. Aleksandr Lukashenko's patronymic name is Grigoryevich, which should mean that his fathers name is or was Grigoriy, but the identity of this man is actually not known. Aleksandr, or little Sasha, grew up without his father in a small and somewhat isolated village which incidentally goes by the name of Aleksandria 2. His mother, who was milking cows at the local kolkhoz, raised him alone in a shackle that is no longer there. According to his aunt, who helped her sister raise Sasha, the unknown father was a no-good scoundrel prone to drinking and womanising and that is why the two parents never set up a common household. At least that was how I understood the aunt, who only spent four years in school and speaks the rural mix of Belarusian and Russian known as trasianka, when I called in on her a few years ago.