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16.03.2021

Lukashenko hosts meeting to discuss IT, finances

MINSK (BelTA) – Bills aimed at combating illicit financial transactions in IT are under discussion at a meeting hosted by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 16 March, BelTA has learned.

“I invited you to work out solutions at the junction of two worlds - digital and financial,” the head of state said opening the meeting. He noted that the financial sector and the IT industry lived their own lives two decades ago. “Yet, today the digital world is literally penetrating every home. Actions and sometimes even public statements of top managers of tech giants started to have a significant impact on traditional industries: mechanical engineering, transportation, logistics, services, space development, and so on,” the president said.

“In some countries, the tools of IT corporations are actively and openly used in political processes (we are familiar with this, too). Those who have let all these processes get out of hand are now reaping a bitter harvest of their decisions,” the head of state added.

Tokens and cryptocurrencies

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the meeting will focus on one of the areas where digital transformation has had a greatest impact - financial sphere. “The use of digital signs (tokens) and cryptocurrencies has become common in many countries of the world. They are accepted as an additional means of payment along with traditional money. In 2017, we were the first in the world to create a legal framework for promoting these technologies in Belarus,” the head of state said.

Since that time Belarus has gained a wealth of experience in this field, the Belarusian leader noted. “As far as I know, no glaring abuse in this area has been allowed,” the president noted. “At the same time, the world has already come up with certain rules aimed at preventing money laundering and financing of terrorism and eliminating prerequisites for various kinds of criminal activity,” he added.

“Therefore, the government, the State Control Committee and the National Bank suggest specifying and clarifying some provisions of the legislation and establishing the necessary level of control over the new field of financial transactions. This is the first set of questions,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Raising capital into Belarus' IT sector

The second set of questions, according to the head of state, explores ways to use digital technologies to boost growth. The president noted that this is only about establishing control, not about infringing on any sector. “I want to say that it is about control, on the one hand, civilized control. On the other hand, we want to seize the moment and use this segment for our development purposes,” he explained.

The head of state emphasized that a lot has already been done in Belarus to create a new and very effective sector of the economy in the country. “The companies operating in the Hi-Tech Park are significantly ahead of traditional industries in most economic indicators. The foreign exchange earnings they bring to the country have become an important contributor to the financial sustainability and price stability,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“However, we need to have a broader look at things. When the COVID pandemic broke out last year, the world leaders printed trillions of dollars (we have spoken about this more than once) to protect and save people. Someone tried to cash in on this, someone took advantage of this situation for other purposes. This is obvious to everyone; more things will become clear later. Nobody hides that trillions of dollars were printed to keep their economies afloat, to support businesses and people,” the president continued.

“Where did these funds start flowing? There were invested in what has the greatest growth prospects and, of course, profitability - the IT industry,” the Belarusian leader said. According to him, the enormous demand pushed the value of high-tech companies by 200% to 800%. “No legitimate business can generate this kind of income. Even the value of an unsecured cryptocurrency has reached an all-time record. However, most of the printed money is still idle, which means that if we raise these funds, they will serve as a great impetus to our growth,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

The president asked the participants of the meeting to share their ideas of what can be improved in the legal field and how it can be done in order to bring global capital into the Belarusian IT market.

Establishment of a single watchdog

Another set of questions dealt with the country's digital development. According to the head of state, a comprehensive decree regulating this field is in the works. This document will allow concentrating available resources in several key areas, setting up a single government regulation body, and making the most of China's experience in building a digital society.

“I believe that these issues should have been addressed a long time ago. Two years ago, we agreed that the government would develop fundamental guidelines, and other government agencies would help it with this. It is necessary to make sure that all proposals are thoroughly studied and verified. We should consider them at a separate meeting in the summer,” the president summed up.