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Belarus' utilities services to be reformed to increase efficiency

Tariffs for housing and communal services should be affordable for the population, said the Belarus President at the republican seminar on the improvement of the housing and communal services sector.

The topic is certainly important for every Belarusian. Today, it is the second most discussed topic among the population. This area is a priority for regional leaders. The work of municipal services is positively estimated by about 66% of the population. This is not enough, however.

The sphere requires serious changes. It is necessary to solve many questions. One of them is the cost of services. In 2018, the tariffs for housing services will be approved by the President personally.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
We have repeatedly agreed that tariffs are raised only by $5 a year and index them in connection with the growth of people's incomes. As far as I know, this increase has already happened - it was in January 2017. At the same time, the Government, the leading ministries and the Ministry of Trade in September raised tariffs by further 8% and start to frighten people that they should wait for another increase in December, by 10%. This despite the fact that everyone will objectively pay more due to the adding of heating services from November. This is an anti-popular approach to this. So it should not be the case. This will lead to a significant increase in payments, which, undoubtedly, will cause negative public outcry. The case will cause resonance.

I do not understand you, the government, governors... Who do you want to please: your people or some international organizations? I set the task for everyone: from 2018 we raise tariffs by only $5 once and in the future there must be no growth without my knowledge.

Tariffs must be affordable for the people. In this connection, I have already told the Government, the State Control Committee to check in detail and on January 1, 2018, we will approve these tariffs with a new decision of the President.

I want to emphasize: you do not need to excite the public by talking about a 100% compensation of the cost of utility services literally from tomorrow. This is a political issue as well. Haste is not allowed here.

We will first calculate the tariffs precisely so that the energy sector, those who provide water, do not capitalize on it and so that they don't solve their problems at the expense of ordinary people. And then we will make a decision when we will reach the 100% compensation rate. But I am convinced that when we very accurately count these tariffs, from the third attempt (we have the relevant experience), the percentage of compensation will be very high. Maybe 90%.

The conversation turned out to be effective and extremely concrete. It was a kind of brainstorming. About 250 people were invited to the seminar: government representatives, the Presidential Administration, heads of ministries and departments, and executive committees. The main goal is to push to the solution of the existing problems in housing and communal services. The main criterion for assessing performance is efficiency.

Alexander Lukashenko:
There are things where we clearly see what needs to be realized. We did not find any such action that would destroy the system. There are house masters or centers that receive calls from people. We agreed that this should be absolutely transparent to control.

We cannot wait for someone to come and plan everything for us. That's what the seminar is for, this is why we gathered you. I demanded that there be the entire power vertical here, the people who must make decisions. So go act. If you want to consult with the governor, consult, if necessary. We had a brainstorming. The problems are very important for us - for the government and our people, for our people. All the proposals that were made during the seminar must be embodied in decrees.

Some suggest liquidating the ministry of housing and utilities.

But look: this is a small cost, but if we have there only the best specialists, we can solve very important issues through the ministry, so why destroy it? Some propose to give all the powers in the utilities sector to the Ministry of Architecture and Construction. I say wait. These are, first, small costs, and secondly this is a very important issue.

Any sociological research says that the problems of housing and communal services top the agenda. So why destroy it? Therefore, the ministry must remain in place, stop all that talk.

This meeting in the Palace of Independence lasted several hours. There was much to discuss. Handling of waste, quality of drinking water, condition of roads, heat supply and major repairs. Besides, Alexander Lukashenko instructed to pay attention to improving the structure of housing and communal services. The demand of the head of state is that it must be united and manageable. At the same time, no consumer should suffer from structural changes.

Belarus' utilities services to be reformed to increase efficiency