The free economic zones in Belarus should maintain their competitiveness in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) market, be attractive to investors and ensure the development of the national economy. On December 27, the Belarus President held a session to discuss the operation of Belarusian free economic zones (FEZs) in connection with the onset of 2017.
From January 1, some benefits granted to FEZs will lose their power in accordance with EEU documents. Our partners in the EEU have already taken some proactive measures. The Belarusian government has also developed a new working conditions for FEZ residents.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
In a tough fight for the investor our free economic zones should not lose competitiveness in the Eurasian Economic Union. Modalities for their functioning in the EEU must be at least equivalent. We should discuss the proposals of the Government and hear the answers to these and maybe other questions that arise. Firstly, what specific measures should be taken to compensate for the loss of FEZ residents and keep favorable conditions for their work? At the same time I want to openly and honestly ask whether we at all need to fight for these residents, for these companies, which operate in free economic zones.
I looked at what our budget gets from the free economic zones It is only $200 million. But most of all I was struck by the average salary at FEZ companies. The chiefs of these enterprises and companies are not poor. But the salary there is about $350. The leaders of these companies have set salaries equal to the country average even below and feel good. As you understand $200 million is nothing for a GDP of $70 billion. Therefore, I ask you whether we should fight at all levels for these free economic zones. I expect your answer.
Secondly. Will the measures proposed by the Government ensure the competitiveness of products in the traditional markets? Thirdly. Are the existing proposals enough to not only keep the production but also stimulate the influx of new domestic and foreign investment?
We don't have time to lose; we need major decisions today so that from January 1, 2017, residents of free economic zones rhythmically work in the new economy.
Currently, more than 400 organizations are registered in Belarusian FEZs. During the first 9 months of 2016, the profit from the sale of goods by FEZ residents amounted to BYN865 million and payments to the state treasury about BYN580 million.
The Government has proposed to extend the deadlines for the activities of free economic zones to the end of 2049. It was also decided to expand the boundaries of the FEZ Brest, Grodnoinvest and Vitebsk. The extension of FEZ territories to the customs frontiers of the EEU and international airports allow residents to receive additional preferences.
Vladimir Zinovsky, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Belarus:
Tax privileges are available for our residents of FEZ. They compensate about 60% of the costs that our companies lose with the abolition of customs privileges. As for the refreshment of the threshold amount of investments. If the new ventures operate in the free economic zone, it is enough to minimize this very sum (not a million and 500,000 euros), but only if during the three years these companies invest these 500,000 in the development of the enterprise.
Alexander Lukashenko instructed to review and intensify the work of the Business Development Council, said press secretary of the head of state Natalia Eismont. The council has been created to work effectively on common issues in the field of business and to develop appropriate and agreed solutions, to generate new ideas.