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Belarus President: 2016 should be decisive in dealing with negative economic trends

2016 should become decisive in combating negative trends in Belarus' economy, said President Alexander Lukashenko today in his State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly.

The Head of State drew attention to the fact that in the last few years, the pace of development in the economy slowed down a bit. And although this is mainly down to external factors, one needs to work at home to resolve the issues.

However, Alexander Lukashenko spoke not only about the economy. All speeches of life were covered. Foreign and social policy, investment and business, science and innovation and safety.

Olga Korshun is reporting live from the Government House.

Olga Korshun, CTV:
The speech the President itself took about 1.5 hours. Now MPs are asking him questions. The message to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly, as expected, was clearly structured. The most large-scale was the economic bloc. The President began his address from these matters. Alexander Lukashenko noted that the principles of the development of the Belarusian economy were defined by his decree No78: it is export diversification, the development of agriculture, reduction of production costs by 25% and creation of 50,000 new jobs. These tasks are difficult and very ambitious but achievable and will ensure economic growth. In general, our country has all conditions for that. First and foremost, as noted by the head of state, this is significant human potential, which Belarus needs to use.  

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
Improving the business environment is an ongoing process. Positive results have been also confirmed by international experts.  But we're not resting on our laurels. The goal is to enter the top 30 countries in doing business rankings. However, when I cite these facts I do not quite understand what prevents businessmen from doing business? You demanded from us the permissive principle, okay, we gave it to you. But if someone wants to do business in their own interests, and without regard to our laws, then you will not have a place for work in Belarus. It is necessary to stop this dispute, no one needs it. Because a lot of businessmen have no complaints, they registered and are now working. Working honestly. The main this is to pay taxes.
The state shall protect and will protect the rights, property and dignity of all entrepreneurs who are doing their job honestly. But we expect strict observance of the laws, we would like to see business coming out of the shadows and starting to pay all the required taxes.
The basis of state enterprise development strategy should be efficiency and profitability. Each problematic enterprise must be considered based on the prospects of its activities. But closing is not a prospect; we are talking about the elimination of inefficient operations but not businesses or labor groups. It is necessary to "breathe" new life into them at the expense of investment, new technologies, new management systems, new production facilities. You can close these businesses but new high-tech enterprises should appear on that place. And in general, you may not create high-tech enterprises, but ensure that every morning a person goes to work, works honestly and receives salary to feed his family. That is the only requirement.

Olga Korshun, CTV:
The President noted that the support of people in Belarus has always been and will remain in the first place. And, despite the objective economic difficulties, this year this support has not been scaled back. Much attention was paid to education: from textbooks change to altering the status of teachers in society and retraining matters. In general, the President criticized education for its old-fashioned nature. He also warned against copying western education system.
Another issue that is being actively discussed in the society is the pension reform. The President reminded that there is no way to go from there. This is a global trend and one should not be afraid of it. But not only the raising of the retirement age is meant here; rather, Belarus is going to change the pension system as a whole.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
When deciding on the retirement age and improving the pension reform, let us admit that we are seriously lagging behind. We needed to take this decision long ago. Therefore, there is no emergency here. And people took it calmly. However, different solutions to this problem were discussed. A gradual increase in the retirement age was named as the most rational. We made the first step. And then, as I said, we will revisit this issue if need be. The entire pension system needs improvement. And keeping the current distribution system we will also be more active in developing a system based on financial defined contributions. By the way, it is being used today. And looking at Russia and Ukraine - our brothers - we once again see that we did it right when we did not plunge into that financial defined contributions system. We gave people the right to choose! But we kept this basis, the solidary system. We did it taking into account the real processes in the economy and the public mood in order to avoid losses caused by inflation or other negative trends.
The main message is that Belarus is not going to reduce pensions or increase social security fund contributions that workers pay.

Another block was devoted to international issues. Belarus pursues a multi-vector foreign policy and is not going to back away from it. But one should take into account the complex and ambiguous situation in the region.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
The situation in the world has seriously changed in recent years. Migration crises are rapidly multiplying as well as the number of regional conflicts. There appear whole quasi-terrorist states, carrying a threat to the entire international community. Belarus should be ready to face international terrorism firmly and fundamentally suppress any manifestation of it interacting with other states and creating its own security system. And appropriate measures are being taken. And you heard about it more than once.
The greatest value is security in the society, the country's defense and peace on Earth. Everything else will be found and bought. This cannot be compared with security and peace on this piece of land. The future of Belarus depends on whether we will be able to defend sovereignty, to prevent penetration of chaos and violence from outside and avoid the mistakes of the neighbors.
We are obliged to preserve the most important asset - peace, stability, interethnic and interreligious harmony and openness to cooperation.
In the current environment, our country can and should play a more active and important role in world politics. Today, Belarus is a security support in the region. We do no conflicts on religious or ethnic grounds. We have never created and will not create troubles for our neighbors. We will never do.

Olga Korshun, CTV:
Personnel policy, science and innovation, prices and payroll. In a word, the President touched upon a variety of issues. He also spoke with deputies. After all, this year is special for us. In 2016, Belarusians will elect the parliament.
The meeting continues now and MPs are asking questions. By the way, last year the presidential address lasted about 2 hours and 40 minutes. 

President: 2016 should be decisive in dealing with negative economic trends