6 July 2020, Monday, 20:20
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Song Comes With Bread

Song Comes With Bread

When administrative reasonability crosses the economic one.

It’s harvest time in the country, there are grain growers in the fields, and their Lukashenka is with them. His words addressed to the television camera: “I come here so that people live even better!” The villagers come after him. They sincerely thank Lukashenka for his attention to them, and assure us that in the current year, which is especially unfavorable due to weather conditions, the crop grown by them is higher than it was last year. You know: a song comes with bread, therefore, there will be more songs.

There are witters among politicians whose performances are perceived by the public better than the work-pieces of professional stand-up comics. Such "impromptu", repeating on all channels on weekends and holidays, quickly fill up on edge. This does not apply to branch ministers. These persons are often not capable of figurative way of speaking, or a witty remark. In addition, most of them are afraid of responsibility for their opinions expressed in public. But if they do say something, then it turns out perfectly. In such cases, their "competent opinions", as they say, are sorted out into quotes, and the latter are remembered for a long time.

Something similar happened not so long ago with one of the ministers of agriculture and food. Usually, distributing tasks to his subordinates, he was guided by the Soviet imperative: sow in the mud, you will be a prince! Like, the authorities will praise for sowing in due time.

But the situation was non-standard. It turned out that in the Vitsebsk and Homel regions it was not practical to grow sugar beets. It used to be reasonable, but not now. It turns out, as the minister explained at the board, that in the Vitsebsk region, the northernmost region of the country, sugar beets do not reach “basic sugar content”. In the Homel region, the “inexpediency” of the production of the “sweet root” is connected with the environment. Literally everyone in the country knows what the “Homel ecological situation” is, and the agrarians are not aware of this news.

A common problem of both regions arises from geography and logistics. More precisely, the local specialists have little knowledge of the economic geography of their country. And they would remain in this ignorance if it were not for the minister who told them that the beet-growing farms of the Vitsebsk and Homel regions are far away from sugar factories, and they lose a lot from transporting products. That is more profitable to import finished sugar to these regions.

And what do you think? After this ministerial “educational program”, contrary to the ban of the ministry, some farms of the Vitsebsk and Homel regions carried out the planned planting of sugar beets. It is clear that the minister became indignant from this and promised on behalf of the ministry to appeal to the government with a proposal at the legislative level to ban the cultivation of sugar beets in these regions.

As far as I know, there has never been a law or decree banning the cultivation of sugar beets in these regions before. Even without this, everyone who studied at school knew that in the Vitsebsk region beets did not achieve “basic sugar content,” and that is why they never cultivated it. Sugar factories were built where it grew ripe, and therefore it was sown. And even if you bring fully ripened beets from Asveya to Haradzeya, you will go bankrupt due to transportation costs.

Does it meant that the beet growers have not read textbooks on economic geography? Do they know how to count?

Of course, not. That is, they read and know how to count. But when the Sugar program was once adopted, everyone was oriented toward volumes — the more the better. Under it they allocated funds, more to those who sow more. Vitsebsk residents sowed and thought: if we get the money, something will grow.

In approximately the same way, in the bygone days, corn cultivation rose to high latitudes, where it never only reached “basic sugar content”, but sometimes it simply did not germinate because of the cold. In such economic systems as ours, development is determined not so much by economic feasibility as by the development of funds allocated to fulfill gross tasks set by the supreme authorities.

We still believe that everything is done by the state and authorities for the benefit of man. The same requirement was introduced into the Constitution, duplicated in the legislation on labor, and in other interdepartmental, departmental and subordinate orders - to ensure a decent standard of living for a citizen. Someone’s level of life has indeed been ensured, but at the average level - no, and poverty and even beggarhood has reigned below the average level. Even the chief architect of this miracle system himself, in fact, recognized its utopianism. From year to year, he promised that the economy would ensure a salary increase to the average European level. And now he is helplessly speaking about “at least some” salaries remaining in Belarus.

Kanstantsin Skuratovich, “Our opinion”