If workers at large enterprises go on strike, Lukashenka will have to leave.
There is a critical situation in Belarusian enterprises. Plants and factories are stuck in debts, which have grown to 50 billion rubles in total.
Charter97.org talked to Vasil Shlyndzikau, the founder and former head of Amkodor Concern, about the state of the Belarusian industry.
- Vasil Mikhailavich, the debts of the Belarusian enterprises are steadily growing. Many of them are unable to pay off loans to banks. How do you assess the situation in the industrial sector of the country?
- The enterprises we used to be proud of for many years are bankrupt. The problem is that there is no initiative. It is stipulated by the fear of making a mistake. After all, no initiative goes unpunished in our country.
I should say it happens due to "fruitful work" of Lukashenka's appointees. They are "hard-working", so they come up with all kinds of papers, decrees, etc. All this comes down to places. Being afraid to make a mistake, local officials play safe. As a result, the state apparatus seems to be working in an Italian strike mode. They go to work and wear ties. As a result, they paralyze economic life in the country.
No doubt, the authorities are to blame for this state of the industry. There are also objective reasons. The market lives by its laws of tough competition. Naturally, one must comply with this market.
We fail to d it. We have an old Soviet administration. Our factories are the same collective farms, with the same management structure. Hence all the problems originate.
Everything is developing, improving in the world. How can any changes come when people are afraid to step up?
- New reports say that more and more plant directors and officials from the economic sector use various reasons to refuse to be Lukashenka's trustees. What is the reason for this sabotage?
- I think they do not consider it vital. Although they do not speak out, they see the situation and the root of all problems. That's why they refuse.
- Zhlobin, Rechytsa, Homel had the largest number of participants in Sviatla Tsikhaniyskaya's rallies. What does it indicate?
- It indicates the mood of workers at large enterprises. People there are almost enslaved. The contracts they sign exclude any possibility to feel free.
Do you think they get high salaries at the majority of enterprises? Problems everywhere. People need and want changes.
I remember people from factories used to support Lukashenka. Once, 50 per cent used to vote for Lukashenka. Now times have changed.
In 1994, strange as it may seem, he told the truth. He "launched" the factories at all capacity and now they stay idle. Only fences and abandoned buildings remind of enterprises. Speaking frankly, he kept his word.
- For the first time in the history of his reign, Lukashenka does not raise the salaries of employees at large enterprises before the election. On the contrary, he reduced them. Even on the "exemplary" BELAZ workers have their bonuses cut two weeks before the voting day. What does this indicate?
- I know that the economic situation is so grave that our salaries do not meet the GDP growth. I mean, it's the financial bubble. I will be glad if the ruble does not collapse in the near future. It would have certainly happened if they had practised a previous scenario - a sharp increase in wages and pensions.
This government has already run out of all its capabilities. They do not raise salaries, otherwise, the bubble will burst.
- Workers' groups discuss a nationwide strike. How will the situation end for the authorities if the workers of large enterprises - Belaruskali, Grodno Azot, BMP - go on strike?
- Then the authorities will have to resign. A nationwide strike will result in a change of power. Otherwise, this regime may survive.
I saw the example of Cuba when Fidel Castro drove the Cubans to utter destitution and devastation. However, TV screens showed how prosperous their life was. The same thing happened in Iraq under Hussein.
Now our chances for a power change are an all-time high. It is the first time when people are so sensitive to everything that happens in the country. After all, only the passionate part of society responded this way earlier. That is, literate, active people who resented and protested, went to prison and died under the passive eye of their people. Now the situation is completely different. Now people are trying to stand their ground. Many things are already being done.
The authorities are unlikely to avoid an even greater economic collapse because Russia also faces serious problems now. They suffer a decline in production, GDP, and income. Therefore, people's protest moods will only grow.
- How would you offer to save industry in a new, free Belarus?
- The recipes have long been known. We have to follow the path of Poland. Introduce complete freedom in the economy. We need privatization, not the one we have now. No one will buy these factories. This government has dissuaded people from buying shares and participation in economic development. In normal countries, the economy is developing at the expense of domestic investors, people who invest their savings in shares, the establishment of enterprises, etc. Belarusians do not trust and will not trust in these shares soon.
Everything will happen slowly. Anyway, we need to privatize, sell shares, organize the stock market, introduce the title to land, reorganize all agricultural and medical sectors to ensure proper services, etc.
This is a huge amount of work. We need people who know what to do. The industry also needs transformations. Each plant needs its program discussed openly to avoid mistakes.