The 5th All-Belarusian Assembly was extensively covered by television channels and other domestic and foreign media. Some tried to use in-depth analysis while others just slipped on the surface. I remember in this regard an English song translated by Samuil Marshak:
Pussy-cat, Pussy-cat, where have you been?
I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy-cat, Pussy-cat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.
So, in the same way, some journalists saw only the contents of the delegates' suitcases. Here it is, this suitcase! Let's open it later, but first things first. Let's watch the story by Yevgeny Pustovoy.
Yevgeny Pustovoy, correspondent:
After each All-Belarusian People's Assembly, our country begins to flourish with new vigor. The history of the national forum can be traced by the history of the Palace of the Republic, which was half destroyed in 1996, and Belarus was only beginning to build its own state. For a second time the delegates of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly meet in these walls. Then the entire state policy gets a clear and understandable form: "For the strong and prosperous Belarus." In 2006, there was a new stage of the socio-economic development, which is clearly and briefly described by the President thesis: "The state for the people". In 2010, the strategy becomes even clearer: to attract investment and promote innovations. Now, the fifth All-Belarusian Assembly is already history. The development program designed to run until 2020 was approved. Delegates are going back to their regions with new ideas. A go-ahead for movement forward has been given. Good luck!
The stronger the nation's feeling of comradeship, the more confident it feels in the international arena. But after the fall of the "Soviet colossus" (Belarusians did not want it) many supporters of the purity of democracy wanted to grab some pieces of the country. In those years, Belarus could disintegrate into a number of puppet republics. Empty shelves and purses were a common sight those days. Then the young head of the state offered the simplest communication scheme: “the President - the people”.
Many say: "Why do we need the Belarusian People's Assembly, this is Lukashenko's another idea!" Here I see old-timers, who attended the first All-Belarusian People's Assembly back in 1996, who remember those days and the reasons that led me to gather the Belarusian People's Assembly. Had it not been for the support of the delegates, who came from all corners of the country, who did not know that Lukashenko as the President at that time... They had one dream: it was necessary to save the country because the trouble had come to our doorstep. And if you, your colleagues had not said no to the collapse, we would not be here now.
Among those who were here was the veteran of the All-Belarusian Assembly Sergey Kostyan. Then the delegates felt like in trenches: there was an invisible war.
Sergey Kostyan, delegate of the fifth All-Belarusian People's Assembly, chairman of the Belarusian Slavic Committee:
The first meeting was a meeting of the alarm, it was a meeting to break the deadlock, because we were in an economic, political collapse. It was necessary to save the country.
Nikolai Bordyuzha, guest of the fifth All-Belarusian People's Assembly, the CSTO Secretary General:
When there is no such constructive dialogue, then Maidans happen. Then come protest movements, strikes, rallies. And if you have the opportunity to speak, and, most importantly, if the government hears you, then there will be no revolutions.
Volodymyr Lytvyn, guest of the fifth-Belarusian People's Assembly, the People's Deputy of Ukraine:
The model of development chosen by Belarusian leaders and the Belarusian people allows painlessly adapting the post-Soviet republics to sovereign development and enables these countries to find their rightful place in this complex troubled world.
The straight live dialogue continued two days. All problems, even local and seemingly less significant, were given some attention. Despite the pomp of the meeting place, this is a living contact with the people, and the official dress code did not influence the warm atmosphere in any way. The new development program was widely available, which allowed Alexander Lukashenko to start speaking about the main things right away.
This is a program of development, not stagnation. The program of the future, not the past. The program of action, not expectations. This is a real program, without extra promises and unreal plans. It examines not only the objective difficulties, but our mistakes. And we suggest ways to correct them. This program is for evolution, not revolution. In it, we firmly maintain the continuity of our policy and the basic foundations of the Belarusian development model. We are categorically opposed to radicalism, shock and breaking of everything.
Belarus's voice is the voice boldly calling for peace and equality. It is reflected in the words of the national anthem and the language of Belarusian diplomacy. It sounded in the UN and in the hospitable halls of the Palace of Independence, which in February 2015 hosted the Normandy Four meeting on the Ukraine crisis. But often the voice of reason is drowned out by calls for revolutionary turmoil and radicalism. This reasonable voice is sometimes ignored even in offices of high-ranking politicians whose walls are covered with political maps, already divided into spheres of influence.
The current situation in the world is characterized by intensified fighting of states for the leading position and control of the markets of raw materials. The desire of geopolitical power centers to expand their zones of strategic influence has resulted in the infringement and block of interests of other states, provoking tensions and contributing to the strengthening of inter-state conflicts. Radical extremism and international terrorism are blooming and they are filling the vacuum of anarchy, then growing up to become quasi-states that begin to dictate the world what to do. Belarus, being in the geographical center of Europe, cannot stay away from these challenges and threats that occur not somewhere far away from us, like it was before, but, unfortunately, very close, at our doorstep.
Belarus has to pay a high price for its favorable position. However, despite the huge losses, the Belarusian nation has never betrayed anyone. Instead, it has always protected itself and the neighbors. An important political event this year coincided with the sad date.
Exactly 75 years ago, the most terrible and bloody war in history began. We remember its lessons well. And the main lesson is that any, even the greatest trouble, can be overcome only together. If, in the face of difficulty, people unite and don't lose heart, any obstacles can be overcome and all goals become achievable.
On the eve of the All-Belarusian Assembly we triumphantly tested our Polonez system. This is the defensive weapon that discourages anyone from offensive plans.
Our scientists, together with organizations of the defense sector, have developed and successfully tested (in a densely populated Belarus, not in desert ranges) the multiple rocket launch system Polonez, which corresponds to the best world standards of precision weapons. This is our domestic system. This suggests that Belarus has created a new promising direction - rocket science and the manufacturing of powerful weapons of containment. It will go into service this year and will considerably strengthen the defense capability of Belarus.
This farm can give the entire country a river of "the elixir of youth and health." Modern science does fabulous things. These goats were experimented on: they were given human genes - now there is a whole herd of these animals. And in the future, they will give 500-700 liters of useful drink with lactoferrin per day. This substance is contained only in breast milk and only in the first week after birth.
Alexander Budevich, head of a laboratory of the scientific and practical animal breeding center of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus:
Lactoferrin starts a child's immune system. Plus we found anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and anti-carcinogenic properties of lactoferrin.
One liter of milk gives 2-3 grams of lactoferrin. Its self-cost is BYR 100,000. Alexander Budevich's task is to awaken interest in this product.
If you create something, show it in practice, on a production line or in agriculture. Sow 100 hectares and apply the machinery and means that ordinary peasants use. And show the difference.
From the repository of fundamental knowledge to a scientific and industrial cluster. The National Academy of Sciences has a lot of tasks now. They need to be resolved. Although sometimes academics cannot even solve the simplest tasks. The President has a diploma of a teacher and is also a father of a schoolboy. Alexander Lukashenko raised some education issues that need to be resolved.
Today a man of 20-25 years does not know how to screw in a light bulb. Man now cannot sharpen a knife in the kitchen. Let alone mowing, chopping and so on. But earlier true men could do it. What about girls? Can she sew a button? Families still teach them, but only about 10% of what they earlier used to. The family also has to be engaged in it. Why did we stop teaching these basic things at school? Some want to create so abstruse curriculum so that even professional teachers find it hard to solve some tasks. Who needs them?! In the near future you must create normal textbooks. It is the most important thing at school, like an "icon". And they need to be created by the best teachers of our school, not academics, who have forgotten times when they were at school!
The Belarus President instructs the education ministry to do this during the summer breaks. In August, the education minister will come with a portfolio of suggestions. The head of state also paid attention to business.
The most important tool not only of self-employment, but also the creative self-realization of people is the development of small and medium-sized businesses. Through business people will be able to provide for themselves and their families, as well as to employ two or three people. Areas of focus here are not limited. Liberating business initiative should be the driving force for the recovery of economic growth and job creation.
Import duties and VAT on the production equipment for small businesses will be abolished. Businesses in the village will be given tax holidays for two years. Each region should create support centers for business. Banks are ready to give Belarusian entrepreneurs one billion of Chinese loans. Trust is vital when it comes to relations between the state and businessmen.
And do not choke them with control measures and inspections if you did not catch them by the hand. If you do, them punish them. You cannot take other people's things. I have been telling you this for 20 years. I will not see this maybe and the police will not see, but please... You all go to church, after all, and Lord sees everything. And where will he send us there? So think. But I address law enforcement authorities: if you do not have facts about some business breaking the law, you cannot go to that company! Here is the decision once and for all!
Alexander Moshensky, a shark of domestic business, says that the main thing is to obey the law, despite any achievements.
Alexander Moshensky, delegate of the fifth All-Belarusian People's Assembly, businessman:
It is an axiom. I hope that law enforcement agencies know this. If there are some facts about breaking the law, they come and work. And if there are no facts, it seems to me, they don't come just for nothing. It has been the case for 5-10 years in Belarus. But this reminder of the President is worth it.
The message of this meeting is clear: business are given different preferences, and instead the state expects patriotic attitude to the economy: the creation of import-substituting goods and new jobs. Alexander Lukashenko once again repeats: 50,000 jobs per year, retirement pension of at least 40% of the average salary by 2020. The President said about the reduction of the state apparatus with the goal of leaving only the best and pay them more.
It is necessary that not 180 people but only 25 work in an executive committee (I'm talking in the abstract). These must be intelligent people. All that we save needs to be distributed among those 25 people, competent and able to make decisions.
Belarus spends about 2% of the GDP on its state apparatus. The neighboring Russia spends 4%. In the EU, which is presented as a role model for the optimization of bureaucratic apparatus, every 7 out of 100 euros are spent on officials of various levels. Personnel issue sparked hot debates during the two days of the meeting.
Marianna Shchetkina, delegate of the fifth All-Belarusian Assembly, Minister of Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Belarus:
Mr President, our entire public association is working closely with the public authorities. Yesterday you said that it is necessary to carry out optimization of the state apparatus by 1.5-2 times. The main thing is that we don't start cutting jobs right away, from tomorrow.
We make decisions, and no one implements them, and then we have to go and do it ourselves. The question is in executive discipline. Some say that dictatorship is here in Belarus. But in a country with dictatorship, no one has to repeat anything. But in Belarus one sometimes needs to repeat the same thing five times. Is it dictatorship?
The Belarusian people, international experts and economic consultants were looking forward to hearing the key speech of the President. Many ask what reforms the country will make. Will they be radical or incremental?
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
Some offer us, including in the government, some radical changes or even a break-up of the entire system. We can't break anything. When it comes to radical steps, I say: "Good. Even if these radical steps today are accurate and if they are designed taking into account scientific approaches and were tested somewhere, who will be implementing these radical measures? Who? Do you think that if 2-3 smart people understand what to do, then everyone will rush to implement all these ideas? We need staff if we have to implement a new course. If we do have them, we can easily work out a new course within a week and begin to implement it.
Second. I have already said about this once. When I am asked about whether I am ready for the reforms, I always reply: 'Do not ask me. I'm ready for any reform and any action plans. The question is not in me. Are you, the society, ready for such radical changes?' Silence is the answer.
Belarus will retain its moderate political climate and in the following years, without sharp continental movements to the different poles, despite record warming in relations. Belarus is ready to sell their products to anyone in the world.
First of all, we need to maximize the benefits of integration projects created in the Former Soviet Union space on our initiative and with the active participation of the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the Eurasian Economic Union, and the CIS. In cooperation with the West, we are interested, above all, in investment, technology transfer, the creation of innovative joint production facilities, participation of Belarusian companies in international production chains and, of course, the delivery of our products. Especially difficult but necessary thing is the reorientation of export to nearby markets in Asia, America and Africa. After all, Belarus expects export to far-reaching countries to increase 52 per cent from the current level.
Many foreign guests were present at the All-Belarusian People's Assembly. The message of Alexander Lukashenko about the strengthening of economic cooperation was heard.
Daniel Krutzinna, CIS managing partner of an international consulting company:
It is positive that Belarus boasts quite high degree of organization and the presence of administrative procedures that work quite effectively. And in general, I like the hard-working nature and knowledge of the people, which is proven by the developing IT industry.
Dependence on foreign markets and energy sources is the main burden of Belarusian economy. By 2020, Belarus will diversify sales and substitute hydrocarbons. Together with the construction of the nuclear power plant, is necessary not only to correctly use what is left by nature in the bowels but also defend the country's interests, because even the closest partners may sometimes let down.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
You remember when we had to send to prison some representatives of Russian business. You remember it; I was constantly interfered in the process. We said that we would not retreat. And we did not want to move the Belarusian Potash Company, which was engaged in sales, to Switzerland or outside our country. And what now? Now almost every month I receive petitions from the new shareholders of Uralkali begging me to accept them. I say: "If you have a proposal, you're welcome, let's meet". I'm not saying that the whole world is praying to us. But if one has to choose between the Belarusian company and some other (for example, a Canadian) businesses often choose Belarus. Why? Because the state guarantees the integrity of this company.
Tests are sustained, but the global economic turbulence continues. And in such conditions Belarus has to catch up with those who has already risen in science and industry. And there is high competition at these heights.
Foreign markets mean fierce competition, real trade wars and battles for each unit with the use of a wide range of means of prohibitive customs barriers: from price maneuvers to the use of weapons. Therefore, we must be fully prepared. Success is guaranteed only if we improve the quality of products, reduce its self-cost and provide full pre- and after-sales service at the level of the best world practices.
Social orientation is something that will definitely remain in Belarus' social and economic policy. Two-thirds of the budget funds allocated to finance state programs will be used for the development of social sphere. Five per cent of the GDP will be spent on medicine. In Bloomberg's health effectiveness rating, Belarus is in 47th place, above the United States and Russia! By 2020, the average life expectancy in Belarus should exceed 75 years.
No man trapped in a difficult situation should be left without help from the state. We are talking about the introduction of non-cash housing subsidies to mitigate the increase in utility tariffs. I emphasize: their increase should happen only simultaneously with the reduction in costs for services, income growth and the development of a system of targeted support for vulnerable people.
Another trend is the economic development of Belarus' regions. The task until 2020 is to erase the differences between Brest and Mogilev, Grodno and Vitebsk regions. Speaking about Minsk, the Belarus capital, the President warned against mistakes made by many countries, when a large part or half of the country's population is concentrated in the main city, which is choking because of traffic jams.
The country has almost 1,500 agro-towns. Without them, modern Belarus would be different. In Europe, only the richest people can afford to build these oases of urban comfort among natural paradise. In Belarus, the state shouldered this burden.
Our village, without which a country cannot exist. Today, it has accumulated a great number of long-standing problems. It is impossible to keep silent about them. We have invested a lot of money in agriculture. No country of the former Union invested there as much money as Belarus. In recent years alone, we have invested in the modernization of the village about $50 billion, in line with the two programs.
By 2020, agriculture is going to offer 10 percent cost-effectiveness, and annual export of 7.5 billion dollars. There comes a time of strong farms and leaders. The rest will go down in history.
The umbilical cord of Belarusian authorities is buried in their native land. Therefore, small villages will not be buried under the bucket of history. Three levels of development have been prepared for the Belarusian village. The first - agricultural towns - has been passed. The second - which will deal with central manors of disbanded farms - will take place in 2016-2020. And the third involves work with small villages from which many Belarusians come.
Of course, not every village has given Belarus famous public figures. Farmsteads and folk craft destinations can give a second life to some of these villages. The people's development program has been adopted. Now the government and the new convocation of the parliament will have to implement it. The country is preparing for an important political event - the election to the parliament. Alexander Lukashenko emphasized whom he would like to see in the Oval Hall.
We attach great importance to what new deputies will come here. Whom do people trust? I have already said that I do not doubt that people will choose the most worthy people. The evaluation criteria of candidates are various according to different people, but most agree that they are in favor of those who support sovereignty and independence of Belarus, a peaceful and evolutionary path of development and the rise of domestic enterprises.