What the authorities' "surprises" have caused.
In Belarus, about a half of individual entrepreneurs (IEs) are going to close their business in the near future. Many of them are ready to leave the country. The data are collected during the survey of almost a thousand entrepreneurs.
Charter97.org asked Viktar Marchyk, an entrepreneur and representative of the Belarusian National Congress in Slonim, to comment on the situation:
- I have been on Slonim market today and talked to entrepreneurs. I'd like to note that the market was empty. I walked along and did not find any consumers. Entrepreneurs are just sitting there, talking to each other. They make no profit.
Many young IEs who have recently opened now had to close down. Basically, those who are retired or are about to retire are left on the markets. They are still trying to stay afloat, because they have no other option - no one will hire them. Our country suffers from mass unemployment, and if there is any vacancy, it is almost not paid and it is enough only to pay for communal services.
The current situation is that even on weekends there is a big problem with customers. They are, but this is not what it used to be. People's purchasing power has considerably declined. In general, on weekdays there is no profit at all, and if 2-3 things are sold at weekends, it is a success. Mostly, people borrow things under the record in the notebook. It is natural that not everyone repays, a business person skates on thin ice, but there are no other variants. If you don't lend, you may not sell anything at all.
- You have noted the closure of the young IEs. Indeed, the survey shows that "the entrepreneurial sector is getting old", while the young do not long for entrepreneurship. Why?
- Constant "surprises" on the part of the authorities in the form of decrees, laws, which do not support small and medium businesses, but, on the contrary, destroy them, have contributed to it. Although, on TV they throw honey-words about IEs. In fact, this is lies. The young see everything and do not want to risk.
- What are the problems of entrepreneurs today?
- One should remember decree No. 222. Entrepreneurs are flat on their backs with it.
I'd like to point out Asian cheap shops. Our IEs are trapped; they have to take goods with invoices. They are of better quality, but also costs more, and since people's salaries, especially in the regions, are low, they would like to buy better clothes or shoes, but cannot afford it. As a result, they go to second hand shops or Asian shops. These things are of poor quality, but they are cheaper.
Today to do business is to invest money in nothing. Entrepreneurs, who have been in business since the 90s, just have idle time and eat out money earned before.
- The survey shows that 92% of entrepreneurs believe that retail entrepreneurs are being destroyed as a class. Do you agree with it?
- I agree. Lukashenka said long ago that one day he would shake hands of the last business person. He hasn't managed to achieve it yet, because entrepreneurs are still trying to stand for their rights. The struggle has let our IEs to make it to the present day.
The Belarusian authorities adopted the worst of the Soviet Union. Those at the top have everything, while those at the bottom have nothing. It turns out that entrepreneurs pay taxes, bearing huge losses. In my opinion, this is done on purpose to suppress small and medium businesses, because Lukashenka wants to control everything and everyone. IEs are a more independent stratum of society, and it does not work for the ruler. But his plans to destroy them will fail. It's the wrong time and the wrong situation.
– What would you like to say your colleagues-entrepreneurs?
- We can protect ourselves. My experience shows that only common efforts and mass protests bring results. In this case, the authorities have to listen to us. When they see that people are concerned, they make concessions. I stress that we should stand up for ourselves.
Sometimes the actions should be decisive. Up to the change of power in the country.
I'd also like to say a word about mass inspections, which result in a large-scale seizure of goods.
So, dear colleagues, when there are not 100-200, but 30 thousand entrepreneurs standing on the Square, then all the issues will be solved. We also need to stop all payments to the budget and watch the result!
The authorities need money. They fill their pockets with mass inspections. Huge fines to individual entrepreneurs and seizure of our goods, which are then sold in state stores, work in their favor. There is a simple scheme: entrepreneurs have bought goods at their own expense; they are confiscated and sold; the authorities put money in their pockets. This is banditry at the state level! It must be stopped.
You know, if I met Lukashenka, I would have told him: "Enough! Don't be afraid to give up power and leave. Things are getting worse in the country, you see. You have no strength anymore. Remember, you promised to "do everything for people" in 1994, so do it. Not for yourself, for your entourage, but for ordinary Belarusians. Just go away. Belarus needs fair elections, where we choose the leader we need".