Lukashenko Sets Out Rigid Privatization Rules

Belarus will privatize up to 25 percent of some of its enterprises, but only if the wrokforce, local and national government agree in each case, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday, web portal reported.

The president outlined the plan in his state of the nation address to parliament on May 8, citing the example of Minsk Sparkling Wines firm which recently held an initial public offering – the nation’s first.

Privatizations of industrial enterprise could mean relinquishing state control of up to 25 percent of shares in favor of small private investors, but only with limits set on the size of stakes to any one investor, to limit their influence on enterprises, he said.

The buyers of Belarusian state enterprises will have to pay “a fair price” and go through a complex procedure, Lukashenko said.

“In order to privatize an enterprise, a prospective buyer should go not to the president but to the enterprise,” he said. “And it is the work collective that has to decide whether or not privatization will take place. Then the deal must be approved by local authorities, then departmental officials and then by the government which only after considering all pros and cons can submit it to the president,” he added.

Lukashenko said Russian investors were unlikely to succeed in buying state properties in Belarus if they disagreed with the price sought by the Belarusian government.

“I have recently read in the mass media that one of figures in Russia who was holding negotiations on the conversion of MAZ (Minsk Automobile Works) into a joint stock company said that the Belarusian side had asked too high a price. But if the price doesn’t suit you, don’t come here,” he warned.

He cited the example of the country’s largest mineral fertilizer producer Belaruskali, a major source of budget revenues for the state. Last year, Russian firm Uralkali wanted to buy it for $14 billion, but the Belarusian government set the price at $30 billion and the deal fell apart.

“Let me repeat time and again, we are even ready to privatize Belaruskali. But price is the issue, and we have named the price. Today this is already not $30 billion but $32 billion, or may be $31.5 billion. Those who wish to buy it, you are welcome. But if nobody wants to buy, we’ll do without them,” Lukashenko said.

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