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Lukashenko hears out report of first vice premier, finance minister

MINSK (BelTA) – Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko heard out a report of First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Snopkov and Finance Minister Yuri Seliverstov on 25 August, BelTA informs.

“The meeting will focus on the implementation of the state budget, local budgets,” the president said at the beginning of the meeting. “First of all, I want you to report on the influence of the budget on the formation of salaries. We agreed that it should be 80% of the average salary in the country for budget-sponsored employees. Of course, the budget has a strong influence on pensions of our people. Pensions are a holy thing.”

The head of state deems it necessary to ensure that pensions make up 40% of the average salary. “Veterans turned out to be the most persistent and reliable people. They are, in fact, the pillars of our statehood in this complicated period. We must take care of them. If we do not take care of them, it will mean that we are not the government, not the state,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Another issue on the agenda was the fulfillment of the state obligations to repay foreign debt. “What is the state of affairs here? If it is necessary to refinance something, we need to think how to do it. If we do not refinance, if we cope with it ourselves, please tell me. Of course, the time is not easy. We have spent huge money on coronavirus treatment, all these so-called strikes, rallies have also put pressure on the economic situation. Nobody is counting the money that is spent on them. The losses have already reached Br500 million, and we still do not know what collateral losses will be,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko asked about budget revenues, the projected deficit in Belarus and of partners, about the impact of markets' closures on these relations. “What is going on on foreign markets? How is the economy working? In what areas do we receive less than due?” the president asked.

Finance Minister Yuri Seliverstov told reporters in early August that Belarus' state budget may fail to receive up to Br4 billion in revenues due to the situation with oil and due to the slower economic growth amid the pandemic.

The planned budget deficit has been raised from Br900 million to Br2.1 billion. The figure may go all the way to Br5 billion at the end of the year. The finance minister stressed there is nothing extraordinary about it, the move reflects the restructuring of debts of bakery plants to the tune of about Br1.3 billion. Yuri Seliverstov explained that the Finance Ministry has some reserves in Belarusian rubles, which had rolled over from the previous surplus years. The reserves will be used to honor all the commitments as the current revenues go down.

In January-July 2020 the deficit of the central state budget amounted to Br1.4 billion. Revenues totaled Br12.8 billion, with expenses at Br14.2 billion. Revenues were Br1.5 billion below last year's figure. The budget received the planned sums from excise duties (Br1.7 billion), VAT (Br5.8 billion), export customs duties on potash fertilizers (Br883 million).

The state budget failed to get the planned sums from export customs duties on oil and oil products (Br175 million or 13% of the target), profit tax (Br260 million or about 18%), and dividends (Br216 million or about 21% of the targeted amount). The economic downturn had a direct effect on revenues from dividends and the profit tax, the finance minister explained.