You are here

Boleslav Pirshtuk about OSCE PA summer session and economic reforms in Belarus

Let's continue the theme with the guest of our program. Today in the studio we have deputy chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus Boleslav Pirshtuk.

Boleslav Kazimirovich, hello.

Boleslav Pirshtuk, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus:

Good afternoon.

Let's start with the main thing, perhaps, not with what we started the program. Belarus is expecting the greatest event - for the first time hundreds of deputies from 56 countries will arrive in Minsk in the summer. And for this you have recently been to Vienna where you represented Belarus as a platform for the session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. This is a great event. I do not know what to compare it with: with Eurovision, with the World Ice Hockey Championship, with some great political forum. It is very important for Belarus, as I understand it.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
With no exaggeration I can say that this will be the most significant event this year, because it is really the first time in the history we will have hosted 56 countries, we will be 57th, with about 600 participants coming, these will be MEPs. For those who may not know the composition of the OSCE, I will say that it is composed of almost all EU countries, former CIS, and two American countries - these are America and Canada.

In my opinion, there are two representatives of the Vatican.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
Yes, two from the Vatican. Therefore, representation is really very serious. As is known, the Republic of Belarus, our Parliament, has been a member of the OSCE for more than 10 years. We actually visited Vienna in late February with a small parliamentary delegation. We organized there a presentation of our republic. I have to say that the interest was higher than usual. We took promotional materials, handouts, tourist materials.

Probably it was not materials, not the photos that made the OSCE decide on holding the PA session in Belarus. Why did we deserve that trust?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
The decision was taken last year. I have to say good words to our colleagues, members of parliament of the previous convocation. It was first of all thanks to them that this was made possible.

Thanks to which it is all ok now in Belarus.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
Thanks to the fact that they acted well on the European markets, participated in the meetings of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. I must say that we a lot of times showed our country in a good, positive way. Many members came to us and noted the successes of the Republic of Belarus. Especially in contrast to the events that are taking place: the conflict of the Russian Federation with Ukraine. The keynote during this parliamentary session was the Minsk agreement, Minsk as a peacekeeping ground. Again, the role of Belarus in this case was very highly appreciated, because we have found a solution to bring to the negotiating table these two conflicting parties.

Belarus is an example of peace and security. Did this play the role?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
Absolutely. I must say that many deputies saw our photos and slides. We showed a presentation of our enterprises. Many brands are well known there.

Advertising is good but what Belarusian brands do they know?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
We took our light industrial products, took linen, took sweets by Kommunarka and Spartak. Of course, we very well positioned our industries, our giants, including BelAZ and MTZ. We had very good, high-quality presentations. By the way, I should mention that foreign parliamentarians are usually acting businessmen. In this sense, it was important to promote our own products as well.

They will come here and see with their own eyes. These 600 people are not just tourists, they are politicians, businessmen, influential people. What will be discussed in Belarus? OSCE suggests security and cooperation.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
First, we provide a platform but it is the OSCE that forms its agenda. Incidentally, the agenda has still not been formed. There are three standing committees, the agenda has to be specified. By March 15-17, the chairwoman of the Parliamentary Assembly Mrs Christine Muttonen will visit us. We will sign an agreement, our two chambers from our side and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Currently we are working to position ourselves as a peace-keeping platform. We have some ideas, we will modify them and of course we are eager to suggest them.

This is a great event that will discuss security too. I have already said that we are an sample of security and tranquility. Don't you think that maybe there are some forces that do not like the warming of relations between Belarus and the West? And even these attempts to bring people out into the streets, connected with decree number 3. Would it not be for the decree, they would come up with other reasons to call people to protests (like vodka is too weak or stewed fruit is too sweet). There begins some fuss, but it happens for someone else's money, because we understand that the opposition is not powered by the will of God, and someone is funding it, maybe those who do not like the warming in the relations between Belarus and the West. It is my hypothesis. Maybe it is far-fetched, don't you think?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
I agree with your thesis that, of course, the polarity is always present. Probably not everyone likes what is stable, what is reliable and what is developing dynamically, regardless of crisis (not in the economy of Belarus but in world economy). Decree number 3... There was a conversation yesterday with the head of state, he placed all the accents. I think that the conclusions were drawn from this. Unfortunately, I must point out that this document was not qualitatively prepared.

Thus we move to the decree.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
It has become a kind of litmus test for certain forces, which, of course, took advantage of this. Not everyone loves this balance, stability and positive things happening in Belarus. I think that these forces are not only within, but also on the outside, there's someone feeding it all. We see what happened to our neighbors. Unfortunately, this is a very serious issue. And we should certainly be vigilant. The authorities, of course, feel the situation on the ground well. And if you have any specific weaknesses or see certain moods, you can just come out and talk to these people. This is a simple task. I must say that entrepreneurs also had a lot of suggestions regarding business climate. When authorities meet continuously with people, then there is no problem, because legislation in Belarus is quite normal, but sometimes we don't use some points effectively. At the same time, there are always forces, which bring these points to life and call to active action. But I think that the wisdom of our people is still quite high, we understand everything and in the nearest future we will sort out everything.

I suppose that after this meeting, after the President put everything on its shelves, everything is clear. Justice must be restored. 

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
You know, there are no ideal documents, as in this case. The task is clear, it has been said which purposes of this decree were primary. The goal was to find people who were engaged in gray economy and we had to make them pay taxes. Of course, they at least have to pay some social tax.

Perhaps those who do not work, but can work.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
See what categories there are and so on. But, unfortunately, we underestimated the situation and some poor people were made to pay. Of course, this is extremely wrong. These people are really innocent; they perceived it as an insult. I also share the view of those who believe that we need to apologize for it. The task now is to amend this document, modify it. But the document will still be in place and it will work.

What's next? We need to secure employment. There are also jobs, but in some cases people can't find them. The President asked for full employment by May 1. What needs to be done for this?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
Orders of the President, of course, are not discussed, they must be performed. This is our main task, especially now, when the economy has slipped slightly. One of the most important tasks is the creation of new jobs. I would, of course, look at this problem in a broader sense. Personally, I think we need to create conditions for small and medium-sized businesses. To put it simply, in plain language - to give more freedoms. There is experience of our neighboring countries, Eurasian Economic Union member states. I am very impressed with the experience of Kazakhstan. There are very good examples where companies are established, they work, entire regions of the regional scale form the budget at the expense of small and medium businesses (up to 70%). This is first and foremost thanks to services. Small businesses are more flexible, more agile in this situation. They are less vulnerable in the face of fierce competition. Our real sector, large enterprises, must optimize and reduce costs in order to remain competitive. This category must go to the service sector. It must learn to work and earn resources.

Much has been done for business really. Belarus rose sharply to 37th place in the Doing Business ranking. We have a normal dialogue with business. Is it necessary to conduct a dialogue with parties and civil society organizations? Next week you will participate in a round table which will discuss various pressing issues, including, probably, the decree, education, and even some sharp questions. Tell us what are you going to discuss? Is it necessary to consult, listen to civil society organizations? Previously, they were even ignored.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
I proceed from a simple postulate: all citizens of the Republic of Belarus want and wish their country everything good. And they also have their own position on many issues, and certainly they also see the nuances and subtleties. The more we involve different forces and strata, the fewer mistakes are allowed. We must prepare quality legislation.

Does Belarus need to change some laws today, taking into account today's requirements?

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
The legislative process is a continuous process. The trend is now fading, I mean every year we consider fewer and fewer bills. Not because we work less but because the basic legislative framework is formed. And now we will consider a very large economic block, for example, on privatization. There are laws, but the situation is changing, market requirements are changing. We go for it. We are looking at how to form the securities market, which is a new topic for Belarus.  We are looking into how to reform enterprises, we are considering public-private partnership.  We want to bring private partners' resources, which will allow us to solve a number of problems, including those of the state level. Thus we should unload the budget. We need to pre-empt this situation and create conditions for the stable operation of the real sector, because the tasks set for the current five-year plan are very strenuous. We did not hit the targets of the first year (2016). We need to make up for it all. In order to catch up, it is necessary to create conditions, including the legal framework. We need to nourish the economy. Economy is the basis, whatever others may say.

Something to rely on.

Boleslav Pirshtuk:
Unfortunately, we face certain challenges and we should be more stable.

Boleslav Pirshtuk about OSCE PA summer session due in Minsk