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Will MTZ CEO Go To Jail For The Stopped Conveyor Belt?

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Will MTZ CEO Go To Jail For The Stopped Conveyor Belt?

The economist told why the giant of the Belarusian industry ended up on the shoulder blades.

On Tuesday, the media reported that the main assembly line at the Minsk Tractor Plant had stopped, the company was taking out loans to pay salaries, and workers were facing a long New Year holiday.

How did it happen that the once giant of Belarusian industry today found itself on the back foot? The website Charter97.org addressed this question to the Belarusian political scientist and economist Dzmitry Balkunets:

— The Minsk Tractor Plant is not the first enterprise to take out loans to pay salaries. This has been happening for over 20 years. I know for sure that many enterprises regularly turned to banks for loans to pay off salaries from previous years.

As a rule, loans are not repaid and debts accumulate. As for MTZ, I believe the situation here is connected, on the one hand, with the sanctions policy, and on the other, with difficulties in the sales market. After all, Russia was the main market for this plant. There may also be problems with the supply of components. The equipment at this enterprise is outdated.

By the way, the “Belarus” tractor is a symbol and brand of Belarus. I am sure that the products produced by MTZ workers will be in demand in different markets in the future. But in the conditions of external isolation in which Belarus finds itself, it is quite difficult to look for new markets. This also affects the enterprise’s income and wages.

In this situation, I would like the plant workers to show greater solidarity with their colleagues who were fired in past months and years, not to hope for new handouts, but to defend their rights, as is customary in the civilized world.

— Which areas of Belarusian industry are at risk of ending up in a similar situation?

— It’s difficult to assess because statistics are not available. For example, Belavia had problems related to logistics. Supply chains and railway freight transport were disrupted.

Problems may arise for the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMZ), since EU countries were an important part of their sales. The oil refineries' main markets were Ukraine and the EU. I don’t even know where they are selling petroleum products now. Perhaps they are trying to supply to the Russian market, but obviously not on the same terms as before February 2022.

In general, I would like to note that the EU sanctions policy did not achieve the effect that Belarusian society expected. The regime manages to easily circumvent sanctions. We see that in trade statistics between the EU and Belarus there is an increase in exports to our country. Then this product goes to Russia and, of course, Lukashenka makes money on logistics. This gives him resources for further repression and so on.

If the EU today pursued a tougher policy with ultimatums, including closing the railway for goods, this would lead to a visible, tangible result in the form, for example, of the release of all political prisoners without any conditions or restrictions.

But, unfortunately, today I don’t see a single politician in Europe who can talk very harshly with Lukashenka. Each country defends its interests, the interests of business. They trade with the Russian Federation through roundabout routes. This gives Lukashenka and Putin reasons to continue what they are doing.

I emphasize that a tougher reaction from the Belarusian diaspora and politicians who have a voice in the external arena is needed to make strict demands on EU countries so that they take decisive measures, and not limit themselves only to some diplomatic notes.

This is very important for the tractor plant. It is obvious that living under sanctions is degradation. We still need to resolve the protracted political crisis and move on to a new development of the country, which, of course, has much better prospects than those that exist today.

— Yesterday, Lukashenka removed his assistant, the arrested ex-Minister of Agriculture Ihar Brylo, from his post. Should the CEO of MTZ be worried?

— I believe that the CEO of MTZ is not the first and not the last who is under threat. If necessary, they will also remove him and send him somewhere. But the story with Brylo, I believe, is connected with the fact that he and Lukashenka did not get along in character.

Let us remember the famous meeting that took place in February 2023, when Brylo argued with Lukashenka instead of praising him. This apparently caused a harsh reaction. A command was immediately given to Brylo to sort it out, but this was delayed in time.

If the information that Brylo was detained and arrested is correct, then this means that he will receive a prison sentence, then Lukashenka will pardon him and make him director of the most unprofitable enterprise in Belarus. This is a lesson for other officials that you can’t behave like that with a leader.

This is an indicator that Lukashenka will continue repression even among people who were ministers just yesterday. For him, they are just cogs of the system who humiliate themselves in front of him, without self-esteem.

I believe that at least sometimes you need to have character and be guided not only by salary, but still be higher than your position. After all, today he’s a minister, and tomorrow he’s in prison. And what from this?

The same fate may await other people who surround Lukashenka today. Including the closest ones.

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