Before building plans for the future and listening to people's delegates, the Belarus President made a trip to the Gomel region. In principle, this is usual practice when the President personally gets familiar with the situation in Belarus’ regions and meets with labor collectives. This time he met with Spartak factory workers. Alexander Lukashenko wanted to see whether the life of the working class is “sweet”. And before starting the “economic locomotive” for the next five years, the President opened the Gomel-Minsk route for electric traction trains. Yulia Beshanova has more details.
In spite of the expectations of the head of state's visit Gomel continued to live in its own rhythm. Alexander Lukashenko arrived in the midst of training of the national rowing team.
While the athletes are only preparing for future Olympic victories, railway workers were ready to demonstrate their achievements. The long-awaited event - the launch of the regular electric train route Gomel-Minsk-Gomel - had been postponed several times. But the wait was worth it. The first launch of the train was like the launch of a space shuttle into orbit.
This is a truly historic event for the Belarusian railways. The country has electrified the southern region, where the busiest rail routes lie. Every year, up to 10 million people are transported via this way - this is the entire population of Belarus. Now Gomel residents will be able to get to Minsk in a little more than 2.5 hours. Earlier the same trip took almost five hours. The President emphasized that the Belarusian railroad industry has some things to be proud of. He added that railway workers are the people on whom one can always rely.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
My mother worked for a railway company so I know what this work is about. I have a very good impression about railway workers. Since childhood and already as President I have been convinced that these people are like flint. I am not flattering you.
In the near future, Molodechno will be linked to the border with Lithuania and Zhlobin with Kalinkovichi. This will also contribute to the economic development of the region. The Gomel region has a new Petrikov deposit and the Granit company is nearby.
Vladimir Morozov, head of the Belarusian Railways:
Tariff conditions must be attractive to our customers. And, accordingly, we should build the logistics and move goods at competitive rates and through good corridors. This is the question of exports of services.
Belarus, which is at the crossroads of international transport routes, pays particular attention to routes. New motorways will be built in the direction of three borders in the coming years. One will lead from Minsk to Poland through Grodno, another from Vitebsk to Latvia and yet another will make it possible to travel to Lithuania through Polotsk. By the way, the road Minsk-Gomel will officially open on July 3.
During the visit, many people came to the President to share problems, ask for advice and thank for help.
I cannot come all the time. Only sometimes, on some occasion. If you create something (like today's railway route), I will come. You will now be able to get to Minsk twice faster. We are opening a highway here in about two weeks, by the way.
This is another facility to be built by request of Gomel residents. For now this is only a site for the construction of a children's regional hospital. Within a few years, a separate facility will open here, equipped with the cutting-edge technologies.
Money from several sources, including that earned during the national clean-up campaign (Russian: Subbotnik), will be used to construct the hospital.
We need to use all sources: both of the city and the region. Patrons, businessmen and all others should be involved too. I am ready to donate my salary, but it is necessary to collect the money gradually, little by little, so that it becomes a nation-wide building campaign. This will be the most modern hospital. This is children, after all, so the equipment has to be appropriate.
The head of state also visited the confectionery factory Spartak. Today's leader of Belarus' confectionary industry, Spartak definitely has something to be proud of.
Oleg Zhidkov, director general of the confectionery factory:
Over the past few years, we have seen sustainable dynamism in both gross proceeds from sales and revenue from sales per employee, which allows us to raise salaries at present time. According to the results of 2015, the average monthly salary at the enterprise amounted to BYR 7.2 million.
After modernization, the factory got a new face. A wafer line was put into operation at the beginning of 2016. The project cost the company almost 10 million euros, but it is already beginning to pay off. The line produces a ton of the crispy product per hour, it is fully automated and, most importantly, the quality is at the level of world analogues.
More than 95% of the profits are invested in the modernization. As a result, the company now manufactures about 3,500 different products: from biscuits to chocolate. Quality means new customers: the Belarusian brand from Gomel has already reached the markets of Singapore, South Africa and Australia. Plans are to win hearts of Chinese consumers.
Oleg Zhidkov, director general of the confectionery factory:
This is a multi-billion dollar market in which our products are already available. We have received Chinese certificates confirming quality. We have the capability to upgrade the company and expand into new markets.
Today, the company stands firmly "on its feet" and the staff is looking to the future with confidence.
Lyudmila Vlaskova, an employee of the confectionery factory, decided to ask the President whether the budget has enough funds to continue to finance large-scale construction projects.
If your business operates like this and others follow suit, we will have enough funds for all. You know that we are people who are able to count and control. We will continue to be engaged in similar investments in infrastructure and social facilities. I think that during these five years, we will finally reform our entire medicine and education.
The staff raised other problems, such as the university admission campaign, school programs, and social policy. Attention was also paid to the forthcoming redenomination. The process of technical replacement of old money with new notes still has some political weight, because it almost coincides with the 5th All-Belarusian People's Assembly and the 2016 parliamentary election campaign. Rumors of possible fraud and price increases were dispelled by the President, who stressed that this issue will be under special control.
There will not be any price rises in connection with the redenomination. I guarantee this. Your governor hears it. This is my first aide and the representative of the Gomel region. We will 'behead' those who will dare to raise prices. I have recently signed a decree turning our Ministry of Trade into the Ministry of Antimonopoly Policy and Trade. That is, it is the ministry that will have total control over pricing.
Employees of the factory even discussed with the President the UEFA Euro 2016. When will Belarus finally qualify for a major tournament. Does the President support any football team at the tournament?
Frankly, I am not a supporter of anyone. I of course would like Ukrainians and Russians to win. But I support football in general and I am looking for some ways to bring our own Belarusian football to the same level.
Alexander Lukashenko admitted that he was glad to see the modernized Spartak factory. Workers, in turn, presented to the head of state unique chocolate ears, in memory of the meeting.