24 January 2018, Wednesday, 1:01

Sole traders: We'll have grassroots mass protests

The behaviour of authorities will lead to the consolidation of protests of sole traders.

It was said by Viachaslau Pilipuk, a representative of the Council of the Perspective public association, eurobelarus.info writes.

– Sole traders have made the lists of remaining goods. They are going to work again. As far as we know, transport companies that organise trips to Moscow markets for sole traders have resumed their work too. It means these trips are again in demand. They began to receive requests on July 8-July 9. It shows that market traders got used to the situation. The fear they had in early July is disappearing.

– Leaders of sole traders said in June people would close their small retail business. How many people do it, if any?

– Many people do it, but we don't have the exact number yet. I'd like to note that they are probably employed people, in whose names trading spaces were registered. Now, when the authorities permitted to have employees, people close their trading spaces and re-register them in their names to officially employ the people who were working illegally. The catastrophe was delayed, but only until the first audits. Test audits have already begun. It was a surprise that inspectors checked the remaining goods at markets in Homel on July 4, though it was a day off. We see that sole traders decided to work hoping that the authorities will continue to close their eyes to violations, as it was with employees. They think mass audits are unlikely and most people will have opportunities to work.

– It was officially informed that mass audits are ahead. Are you waiting for them? What do you forecast?

– If I have to forecast the development of the situation of sole traders, everything depends on behaviour of the authorities. If the authorities really want the decree to be fulfilled, we expect grassroots protests of sole traders, especially in towns with strong regional leaders, as it was in Baranavichy and Vitebsk. It's possible that behaviour of the authorities will lead to theconsolidation of market traders on the republican level.

It is possible if sole traders begin to unite, if they insist on joint protests across the country. In this case we are ready to offer legal and information help and support to them. But I have to repeat that it depends on the authorities. If they organise strict audits and impose sanctions, protests will definitely happen. It's not just words. We already saw it in practice. For example, tax inspectors tried to carry out audits and confiscate goods in November and December 2013 in Baranavichy, Homel, Hrodna and at Minsk's Zhdanovichy market, but market traders united and defended their goods.

What can audits mean for “suitcase traders”? They can stop a bus with them on the Russian border and see than 20-25 traders do not have documents on their goods or have fake documents, which can be easily bought in Russia. What can they do? Imagine, they are women and pensioners who have been working and living at markets for the last 20 years. Try to seize their goods before the eyes of other traders. Imagine what a reception auditors will have. Do the authorities understand it?

– Do you feel attention from the authorities? Do they just ignore sole traders?

– There are grounds to say that telephones of leaders and activists are tapped. Our activists from regions say they are invited to visit local KGB offices on the pretext of preparing a briefing note for the authorities. We regard the invitation to KGB offices in regions and in the capital as a demonstration that they know and watch us. They want to scare us. There are activists who don't care about it, but there are some that fear, and the special services count on it.