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President Lukashenko answers MPs' questions during State of the Nation Address 2016

President Alexander Lukashenko delivered this week his annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly. Economy turned out to be the main topic. According to the head of state, the current year is to be crucial in overcoming the negative trends in this area. 2016 will be the first serious test for the entire vertical of power. The President also touched on foreign and social policy, investment, business, science and security.

Further reading:

Belarus' President addresses nation: top social-economic issues raised

Belarus President's State of the Nation Address 2016: Main foreign political and economic points

Among the foreign economic priorities of Belarus (besides Russia and the EU) are Kazakhstan and China.

Ergali Bulegenov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Belarus:
We are part of integration associations, and the Eurasian Economic Union is the brainchild of our presidents, which is already in operation. There are so many joint projects we are involved in now! And I hope that the next meeting of our heads of state will allow further strengthening our bilateral relations.

Cui Qiming, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic to the Republic of Belarus:
Now Chinese-Belarusian relations are in the best period in history. Your country has political stability and social tranquility. And we assume this is the only island of stability in Central Europe.

What risks does the World Trade Organization carry when it comes to Belarus' membership in it? What positions will the Republic defend in the negotiation process? 

After the State of the Nation Address, MPs asked the President some questions. Here come some answers to them.

Valery Borodenya, member of the Standing Commission on Budget and Finance of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus:
What key positions in the economy must Belarus protect? What interests, what points? Thank you.

Alexander Lukashenko:
We have an open economy, we cannot therefore be isolated from the outside world. We are very interested in working in foreign markets. Because we export about 70% of what we produce. Therefore it is very important for us to be part of this global economic organism, whose name is the WTO. On the other hand, you know that when we join the WTO we need to understand what interests other countries have - the USA, Ukraine and the EU.  But we want to defend our interests too. We need to defend our interests in all directions. In general, when we enter into any organization, we should keep in mind that we have companies we must protect. But the negotiation process is made of compromises. And if we see that we do not lose anything substantial, then we will go for it. If not, then we don't need to go there. That's the task put before the Government and before those who are very much eager to get into the WTO. At the same time look on what conditions Russia joined the WTO. Only the lazy don't criticize Russia for that. On the other hand, look at what conditions Ukraine, Armenia and Kazakhstan joined. We need to draw conclusions from the history of our neighbors. We will negotiate with the members of the WTO. Today we have no barriers to enter the WTO. Moreover, while earlier the EU and the USA did not welcome us there, now they even offer their help. We are thankful for that. For us, all business sectors are important and need to be protected. It is hard to highlight any of them. We are ready to work in this direction, but, like everyone else, we will defend our interests.

Valery Borodenya:
Thank you.

Will labor pensions increase in 2016?

Igor Stankevich, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Commission on Labor and Social Issues of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus:
The last increase of pensions was in September last year. During this time prices have grown and, accordingly, the real incomes of our seniors have gone down. Voters today ask about the next increase of pensions. Thank you.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Just recently I have heard a figure. Over the five-year period, real incomes have grown by 35%. Real incomes of people. This is including price rises and so on. Yes, you are right, that our prices are rising, however, pensions are also increasing a bit. It is not always noticeable when pensions and wages grow. This is our psychology. But when it comes to prices, yes, we all see when they increase. We will try to increase pensions in the second half of the year, definitely.

Igor Stankevich:
Thank you.

Vladislav Shchepov, Deputy Chairman of the Standing Commission on Economic Policy of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly:
I would like to hear your opinion on the training of staff abroad. Thank you.

Alexander Lukashenko:
Kazakhstan and other countries form the whole brigades and regiments, and perhaps divisions and send them to train abroad. I will not do that, I tell you. Now I'll explain why.  We need to teach people on specific enterprises, right there. Thus there is no reason to send anyone anywhere. Only if the need arises. If there are specific directions or projects we would like to develop in Belarus, then we will resort to training abroad. […] We need to know why we send someone, whether this person will return and what he or she will help us create here after this training.

Safety of citizens, given the unstable situation in the world and the rise of extremism is a vital issue for all countries.

Vladimir Bazanov, deputy chairman of the Standing Committee on National Security of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus:
Of course, the world is changing. And we, as a state that is at the heart of the European family, must take care of the security of our citizens. Of course, much is being done. The Parliament has adopted laws that counteract various terrorist manifestations. Is it enough, in your opinion?

Alexander Lukashenko:
The worst thing is that we are starting to get used to it. You are right. We are taking very serious measures. I talked about this, too. Measures to ensure the internal security of our society and defense. You know, no one is immune from this, especially from terrorism. This phenomenon against which we must fight all over the world. We control weapons and we would like this to be all over the world. If there are online recipes for making bombs, akin to the one that exploded in our metro, then of course some people will want to make and detonate it, God forbid. How to fight against this? This is a very difficult thing. Therefore, it is a major, systemic problem. And Russians are right saying that all should join in the fight against it. Therefore, we must be all together, we must unite. Otherwise it will be very difficult to defend. As for Belarusians, we are ready for any measures for the sake of security. And I am confident that we did our best to resist it.

President Lukashenko answers MPs' questions during State of the Nation Address 2016