20 April 2019, Saturday, 16:17
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Entrepreneurs Leave Markets

Photo: bymedia

The number of empty spots is increasing.

The authorities have very special relationships with individual entrepreneurs (IEs). It is barely possible to name a stratum which is subject to numerous decrees and regulations. The number of entrepreneurs has been reduced by about five thousand per year, and the number of people doing business is decreasing.

What are working conditions for entrepreneurs now? Why do the Belarusian authorities keep fighting against IEs? Charter97.org addressed these questions to Iryna Yaskevich, Vitsebsk entrepreneur, chairman of the organizing committee of the Together Trade Union.

- March 18, the National Bank announced the ban for cash payments abroad. How is the situation developing?

- We have been assured that this decision is not valid until 2021. However, the authorities are determined to transfer IEs to cashless settlements. Moreover, there is little time left until 2021. If this ban comes into force, 85% of entrepreneurs will not be able to work. Many IEs do not have elementary things: a payment terminal, bank accounts. After all, we need to document the purchase of goods. All these moves cause a rise in prices. And the purchasing power of the population, as you know, is extremely low.

Today, there is a very strong competition from "networkers", the so-called "guests from Central Asia". It makes its impact on business.

I guess you've noticed that there are a lot of empty spots in shopping malls and markets. There would have been more, but I'll tell you a secret - people just have nowhere to go.

Many people have lost their qualifications over the years and cannot find a job in their field. It's hard for them to compete in the labour market. Second, you know how miserable salaries are in our country.

For many people, this would be an option if they had an opportunity to close down their individual entrepreneurship and to have a job for good money. But people just don't have this option. Besides, it means that you automatically become a "parasite".

- IEs have serious problems with product certification. How does it affect business?

- Yeah, it's still a problem. Online checks, non-cash transactions - the snowball is only growing. I would say to the authorities: hands off entrepreneurs! Take care of factories, roads, hospitals, jobs. I will say more, if the authorities do not like entrepreneurs so much, let them give an opportunity to raise money out of business. People will be glad.

- Another headache is the traders from Central Asia, who work on super-privileged terms. How do you fight unfair competition, which the authorities turn a blind eye to?

- When IEs organize themselves and keep the authorities up, there are fewer problems. I hope that we will be able to defeat this misfortune.

Today we have big problems with "snuffboxes", which belong to businessmen close to the Belarusian authorities.

When their arrival was announced, everyone thought they would sell only tobacco products. And today we see that "snuffboxes" are engaged in retail trade: they sell cookies, chocolate, etc.

People who were forced to destroy their stalls are puzzled. It turns out that this kind of activity is allowed for ones, but not for others. It turns out that everyone is equal before the law, but there are "more equal".

The authorities keep saying that this type of business activity is outdated, that stalls are no longer relevant. I have been to other countries and I can say that it's a lie. They exist abroad. Moreover, people are engaged in even smaller trade. They sell berries and vegetables. It exists. One cannot ruin traditions. Create a legal base and let people work. Start looking at IEs as at citizens. Let us earn some money.

Again, people just have no place to leave. Once I had courage to say that if anybody had an opportunity, let them register as an IE. Someone followed my advice and said they slept well for a while. After all, IEs' headache is bureaucracy and paperwork. People do not sleep at night, afraid that somewhere they made a mistake. But as soon as it was time to pay for the children's education, to pay credits - those people returned to business. IE is the last chance to earn money in our country.

- Recently, Lukashenka has declared about a unique freedom of Belarusian IEs. Have you felt this freedom?

- We've been given freedom. We have the right to breathe air for free. We have the right to eat cheap food that can be barely called foods. We have the right to look into the eye of pensioners, but we avert our eyes. We have a lot of rights, but we want the law to start working. And they do not give freedom, they take it.

It's unnatural to be afraid all the time, against the human nature. When a person is scared, he becomes unpredictable. I remind the authorities that a cornered animal turns into danger.