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Krasnodar hub, error correction in education, iron discipline in animal farming in President's Week


The work schedule of the Belarus president is always full of events. Aleksandr Lukashenko holds conferences and working meetings on the most topical matters concerning the country's development, regularly visits the regions, goes on foreign trips and welcomes foreign guests, talks to reporters, signs decrees and laws. And even if there are no public events, it does not mean that the head of state does not work. It must be said that even when he relaxes, for instance, by playing ice hockey or chopping firewood, Aleksandr Lukashenko happens to find the time to give yet another instruction. All the decisions must be prompted by life, he likes to say.

The President's Week project is intended for those, who want to keep up with the head of state, be up-to-date on the latest statements and decisions of the Belarusian leader.

Why would Belarus want to take root in Krasnodar Territory? What Belarusian competences are in demand in Russia? Who is behind bus fires in St. Petersburg? Will Belarusians see even more revolutionary changes in education? What university admission procedure has been chosen? Why would Belarusian graduates have to do mandatory jobs for longer periods of time? What is wrong with textbooks? How can school meals be fixed without converting canteens into restaurants? Details of the seminar-conference on the development of the animal husbandry industry in Belarus are also presented. What will become the motto for Belarusian agribusiness from now on? Who did Aleksandr Lukashenko threaten to “unequip” if his instructions are not fulfilled? These and many other things are covered by the latest episode of BelTA's special project President's Week.

TO TAKE ROOT IN KRASNODAR TERRITORY. What opportunities did the withdrawal of “old friends” open in Belarus-Russia cooperation?

On 19 September Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko met with Governor of Russia's Krasnodar Territory Veniamin Kondratyev. Aleksandr Lukashenko described this region as the key one in Russia's south where Belarus should secure a foothold. Kuban is another name for Krasnodar Territory.

“The formula is simple and the reason is clear why we were persistently interested in your visit to Belarus. Kuban is the breadwinner, the advanced region of the Russian Federation in all respects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. “We consider Kuban as a key region where we should secure a firm foothold. It is not just delivering equipment and selling it. We want to set up a certain hub with you. We are ready to develop several such large centers across Russia and produce equipment together with you, train your people if needed. We are ready for this.”

Belarus' cooperation with Krasnodar Territory can be developed in various areas. Those are agriculture, machine building, and civil engineering. “Our policy is not to rush into something great and new (because this means big investment and ‘catching up and overtaking' is not our principle at all), but to develop what we know how to do. We have a tractor building school. Why not develop it? Russia, for example, is huge and needs a lot. The same is true about harvesters, BelAZ trucks. We are trying to develop the areas where we have experience, competence and specialists. Therefore, if Kuban needs something, we will surely reach the relevant agreements and implement them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Demand for Belarus in Russia

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the withdrawal of “old friends” from Russia and Belarus enabled the two countries to develop their industries using their own base. Fortunately, this base has been preserved. “Certainly, today Belarus is in demand as a high-tech country. I am saying this not because I consider my country a great one, but because we were a high-tech region in the Soviet times (this is how the national economy was built then). All raw materials moved to the West via us. We processed them and made competitive goods. Otherwise, the Soviet Union would not have been able to sell them outside the country. We have preserved this base,” the president emphasized.

The country has preserved its industrial giants, including thanks to the government's well-considered policy. According to the head of state, the country does not prevent the private sector from developing, with these enterprises making a significant contribution to the national budget. “But we have preserved the fundamental, key industries. We are now trying to build a network of small-sized enterprises that will work for the key enterprises,” the head of state added. “In mechanical engineering small companies can produce nuts, bolts, and parts and help huge companies make progress. Of course, we still have to do a lot in this area, but the main thing is that Belarus has never enjoyed so much demand in Russia as it does today.”

Belarus makes both large equipment and microelectronic industry goods thanks to the fact that the country has preserved its ability to make machine tools and equipment. “Russians are ready to invest a lot of money in the sector because it is hard to imagine development without these microchips. This is why the country has tremendous technological capabilities. We have preserved our science, including fundamental science, by leaving what we need. We proceeded from whether we needed it and whether we will be able to sell in excess of what we need here. We have managed to build the same system in agriculture, manufacturing sector, and other areas,” the president said.

Belarus has comparatively recently launched the production of its own cars. China provided support for it. Today the country is working to expand the localization scale, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Buses that catch fire

Speaking about the possibility of delivering passenger vehicles with different types of engines, the president mentioned incidents that happened to Belarusian buses in St. Petersburg. Belarusian buses caught fire but when investigations began, it turned out that the vehicles had not been serviced properly. The fact prompted a request: if the necessary base and specialists are not available on the ground, the Belarusian side is ready to help with it.

“Otherwise, things will be the way they happened in St. Petersburg,” the head of state said. “We started to sort this issue out. I asked about the state of affairs in other regions of Russia. Our buses don't catch fire here. They do not catch fire in other regions of Russia. Why do they catch fire in St. Petersburg? Because some private company, people, who have never dealt with buses, took over their maintenance. You know what maintenance is: not only do you have to tighten the nut in time, but you have to inspect the bus before every shift. They failed to do all of that. Naturally, there were leaks and so on. This caused smoke somewhere and mass media immediately reported it as fire. This is why if there are no specialists that can ensure reliable maintenance, we would rather do it ourselves and for less money in comparison with your having to organize these things.”

Recent talks with Putin, worse things yet to come

Belarus also pays close attention to the defense sector: the latest developments in the region and across the world are pushing for such steps. “Together with our elder brother [during recent negotiations of the presidents of Belarus and Russia in Sochi] we agreed how we will act in Belarus. Certainly, we don't want to reveal it in public. Our latest talks in your country were dedicated to defense and security,” the head of state said.

The president emphasized the importance of joint actions for the sake of reducing the possibility of growing challenges and threats: “Ukraine is only the beginning. We may see worse things if we don't mobilize and don't show to them that we can retaliate well. We and Russia are most of all concerned about Poland. And America stands behind Poland. They have decided to destroy everything in this area. First and foremost, the European Union. Poland is the key foothold. In 2020 they wanted to merge Belarus with Poland and make us a dividing line between Russia, the East, and the West. But they failed. This is why now we pay close attention to defense.”

Since the Soviet times Belarus has been working on radioelectronic warfare and communication systems. Today's events indicate that this is one of the main components in combat operations. Apart from that, Belarus is also engaged in rocket and missile engineering development. China was Belarus' partner in this sector initially. Now Belarus uses Russian technologies.

ERROR CORRECTION. Should Belarusians expect more revolutionary changes in the education system?

On 21 September Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a major conference to discuss the improvement of the education sphere. It continued the conversation that began in mid-August 2023 when the education minister and the relevant deputy prime minister presented reports on the education system's readiness for the new academic year. Back then these reports were turned down due to an abundance of detected shortcomings while the government and other government agencies were instructed to fix the errors most diligently.

Over 50 people were invited to attend the conference hosted by the head of state. Those were not only top government officials and heads of central government agencies but also oblast governors, heads of higher education institutions and the organizations that report to the Education Ministry, heads of the relevant commissions of the Belarusian parliament, heads of education offices in the oblast administrations and the Minsk city administration, heads of education offices in district administrations, and employees of education institutions from various parts of the country.

For nearly three hours they discussed a broad range of education matters: the technical state of schools, their maintenance and repairs, the creation of a safe environment for students, the organization of student transportation, meals in school canteens, the development of textbooks, certification of secondary school graduates and the evaluation of the new university admission procedure. The president told participants of the conference right away that a conversation with so many participants should be the final one because it is high time to stop all kinds of experiments and offer a fair and transparent system to the general public.

“Here and now we have to determine how secondary schools and higher education institutions are supposed to operate in the future and tackle the key task: enable conditions for professional development and establishment in their own country for young Belarusians. I emphasize: the most talented and promising prospective students have to be in demand here, in the Motherland. It is my iron rule,” the Belarusian leader stated. “But there must be no drastic decisions after our meeting today. All the opinion surveys indicate that school teachers, university professors, and students are tired of our unceasing attempts to improve the education system in a revolutionary manner. It is time to stop doing that.”

The head of state told participants of the conference to present reports primarily about problems and shortcomings in the education system. The president wondered about the opinion of the government officials that oversee the education system as well as the opinion of the heads and pedagogues of education institutions.

Meals and “restaurants” in schools

There are still problems with school catering. Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that quality food should be cooked but there is no need to set up restaurants in schools. “This is why let's sort out everything here,” the president added.

According to oversight agencies, they registered facts where cooks used less food components than recipes specify, where technologies are violated, and where canteens are not ready for operation.

The head of state instructed the government to look into school meals, the work of catering units, the purchase of food and equipment and to deal with the current situation that has caused many complaints. A lot of money is spent by the state budget on school meals but in some cases it is not used rationally. “Figure out how we organize school meals in the future. We can save colossal amounts of money and will not throw away food. We do not spare anything for children. We can feed our children with our food products, we have enough of them. But half of everything is spent on some other purposes,” the president said. “Sort out this problem!”

Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded that all experiments in this area be stopped. “You have this practice: let us try something, stage an experiment. You spend five years doing this experiment in 5% or 10% of schools and then... What experiment are we talking about if we understand how to feed kids?!" the head of state asked rhetorically.

Concerns were raised over the purchase of equipment within the framework of such experiments. For example, some schools applied to buy combi steamers. The president asked to operate without frills: “Stop these extravagant purchases... Do you cook in such a way at home? Why then do you buy extravagant things for school and spend a huge amount of money on this?” Besides, many forget that this equipment requires further expenses on maintenance, replacement of spare parts, and so on. “Get this issue settled,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. “We need a more careful approach to budget money.”

The head of state criticized the inadmissible behavior of heads of individual educational institutions: “Do not create restaurants in schools. I'm even ashamed to raise this issue. They have meals delivered to their offices and have others serve them! The question is: at whose expense?” The president instructed the State Control Committee and the local prosecutor's office to pay serious attention to this issue. “This is discussed by parents, in families. What do you want from students? What kind of morally oriented, intelligent and educated people will such schools raise if school principals and other officials steal and organize drunken parties at school?! It's disgusting, it's not good,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The textbooks that don't frighten students

The president was also concerned that there are still problems with the quality of textbooks. While writing new textbooks and study aids, their authors think like experienced professors. But this approach is wrong and out of touch with their audience, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. He said: “They must appeal to the youth. Young people don't have the same knowledge as we do. They have no experience. Therefore, it is necessary to focus on them and prepare textbooks for them. The system of knowledge assessment (exams and the rest) should be tailored to them, too.”

The head of state reminded that at the pedagogical council on 24 August 2021 he spoke against always changing curricula and plans and endless publication of new textbooks. He suggested returning to the Soviet experience, taking the best textbooks and gradually refining them, improving them rather than printing new ones all the time. “Because every new team of authors is always trying to be original (you scholars understand this): ‘I want to be different from what it was, and show my prowess.' Nobody needs it. The main principle of the work of our state and any processes taking place in our state is to calmly build on what humanity has achieved. We stand, as I say quoting one of great thinkers, on the shoulders of giants. There is no need to jump off these shoulders –we will lose everything that humanity has discovered before us. We must use this for the sake of the future. Therefore, we need to improve and do not hesitate to capitalize on the best things that have been achieved before us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In his report Prosecutor General Andrei Shved drew attention to attempts to avoid the responsibility of fulfilling a specific task of improving the textbooks: “We need comprehensible and universally recognized textbooks. For some reason the Education Ministry is moving away from the notion ‘textbooks'. There are only seven of them today. But there are more than 200 study aids. I am getting the impression that people make money by publishing so-called study aids, which are largely out of reach with the secondary school from our point of view.”

During the discussion about textbooks Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to the quality of training of future pedagogues in higher education institutions. “If quality ‘products' graduate from a university, then we will have nothing to discuss. But today we talk about textbooks, methodological practices, lesson plans… Because we don't train teachers properly,” he said.

Director of Minsk's secondary school No.73 Irina Rodik backed him up. She said she was satisfied with updated school textbooks, in particular, textbooks on the Russian language and literature: “The updated textbooks for these disciplines meet modern requirements today. They are colorful and well-illustrated. The material is presented in a manner students can understand. And the content allows nurturing moral qualities, love for the native land in students. One can say that today's textbook is a desk companion for teachers, kind of a study guide with different variants of problems for any level of training of students.”

The school principal stressed that the most important thing now is stability and as few novelties as possible because teachers have to be able to use these textbooks to teach students from the fifth form to the 11th form.

The president emphasized the importance of having quality and interesting textbooks. “A textbook means everything to me. You know the scariest thing is when the textbook frightens the student. It must not happen. Students should not be afraid of opening a textbook. Textbooks have to attract students. Textbooks need to be pleasant to hold in your hands. And I've said that we shouldn't skimp on it. We need good textbooks, with good fonts and illustrations. And most importantly full of knowledge. Even if things are briefly explained, then the teacher will explain these things. Then students will use the textbook as a workbook.”

The head of state is convinced that wise selection of the team of authors is more important than funding for creating a quality textbook. The quality of some textbooks leaves much to be desired for now. In some cases it is necessary to “use a magnifying glass in order to see what is written there”. “What kind of a textbook is it? We shouldn't skimp on textbooks,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. He stressed that textbooks have to be pretty, use good paper. Particularly considering the fact that they are supposed to last for more than one year.

It is important to involve teachers, who work with school students, in this work instead of academicians, Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced. “They [academicians] have risen too far as far as their knowledge, experience, and the rest are concerned. They are too far from students and think that students are already on par. They are not. This is why I always bring things down to the school teachers' level,” he said.

First of all, it is necessary to polish textbooks on humanitarian disciplines. “What new things can you invent in physics, math? You will only make a mess and so many problems that neither parents, nor children, nor even teachers often understand these textbooks,” the president said.

“As for textbooks, we have an agreement: make a good textbook and bring it to me, show it to me,” Aleksandr Lukashenko summarized the discussion.

Two centralized exams and one centralized test

The secondary school certification system and the system of admission to higher education institutions will continue operating without substantial changes. Belarusian students will have to take two centralized exams and one centralized test. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I think that today the government in the person of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister heard the issues that need to be addressed. We've come up with answers to the main problems, including the stability of the entire education process. We shouldn't make radical policy changes year after year.”

The president said: “As for secondary school certification and admission to higher education institutions. Two centralized exams and one centralized test. We will stick to it for now and will inform the public so that people would know that we will follow down this path in the future. It is important for people.”

At the same time the president did not rule any additional experiments inside the current university admission system. For instance, preliminary interviews or an internal exam in individual higher education institutions.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “They have to be beneficial. Make sure there are no contradictions between exams and the interview. If a person passes all the exams with good marks and fails your interview… You have to approach it very carefully.”

On the whole, all the speakers during the conference spoke positively about the latest innovations. They assured that the practice of centralized exams has vindicated itself and the current model of the university admission process works well. At the same time a suggestion was made to expand the list of specializations where prospective students have to take internal exams as part of the university admission process. The approach would allow better evaluating the future students, as the head of state demands. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed he was not pushing for exactly this approach and it is necessary to preserve the stability of the existing system in the next few years.

However, the president is in favor of higher education institutions bearing the responsibility for the quality of training of specialists. They need to see qualities of the person as early as the admission procedure. “How can you let them enroll if you don't see their capabilities? But you believe that two centralized exams plus one centralized test [should be left] for now and we should follow down this path next year or maybe for another two to three years. I don't see any particular contradiction in that either,” he said.

At the same time it is important to remember that in addition to the mentioned formula there are also plans to develop other options for admission to Belarusian universities. Contract-based education is one of the options that have earned a good reputation. Prospective students are admitted to a university according to a simplified procedure, including without exams. Preferences are also granted to gifted and talented children, winners of academic excellence competitions. During the conference Rector of Brest State Technical University Sergei Kasperovich also suggested admitting straight-A school leavers into regional universities without exams.

Post-graduation mandatory jobs

Changes in mandatory job assignment after graduation from higher education institutions were also discussed during the government conference. Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I am told that the most advanced, best trained specialists are leaving the country. Moreover, people graduate from universities, fail to work for the required amount of time, and quit. After all, we train specialists in vocational schools and universities for our own country.”

Education Minister Andrei Ivanets noted that all the students, whose education is covered by the state budget, have to work for the required amount of time after graduation. “The Education Ministry oversees this work. In a handful of cases graduates pay back the sums the state has spent on training them,” he said.

The minister put forward a suggestion: “We believe that today both free education students and paid education students have to get mandatory jobs and work for the specified amount of time after graduation.”

“Where, how, and for how long graduates are supposed to do mandatory jobs after graduation do you think?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

According to the education minister, full-time free education graduates are supposed to do mandatory jobs for two years after graduation. Students, who opt for employer-sponsored education, have to work for at least five years. Their contract may specify a longer period of employment. Education costs a lot for the state. For instance, if a Belarusian State University graduate refuses to do the mandatory job, he or she has to pay back about Br40,000-45,000 the state has spent training the person, Andrei Ivanets said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that a radical solution to the problem is necessary. Including by means of extending the mandatory job period. “Two years is nothing. Consider for how long we train them at university and then via mentorship, via on-the-job training for two years. For instance, in school if we are talking about a teacher.”

The president believes that prohibitory measures are necessary even if such a step would be unpopular. “At least semi-prohibitory. Let's say, 5 years. You are right, at least 5 years for contract students. We may even carefully raise it to 7 years in some cases. Or you should stay away from employer-sponsored education otherwise,” he said.

The cost of paid education in Belarus is another thing to consider, particularly in comparison with Western countries. Although the education process is less expensive, the state essentially subsidizes the training of paid education students. The education minister said: “At present paid education students compensate at most 50-70% of the cost of training them. Essentially there is no paid education in Belarus. We have semi-paid education, which is subsidized either by the university or by the state. We see this problem. We have to resolve it. We've already started doing it.”

Summing up results of the conference, the president once again raised the matter. “We've made up our minds about mandatory post-graduation jobs. We are increasing the time requirement. It is already necessary to inform the population carefully about it. We train specialists for our own country. We've trained you. We give you the first job. Go ahead and work. We send you to places where we need you. I went through mandatory job assignment myself. And many of those, who sit here, did it, too. It was okay,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

Chronic skew

Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko mentioned the key problem of the higher education system. He remarked that participants of the conference had talked a lot about how prospective students should be selected, how the best school leavers should be identified. “But the question is whether we select the best for the right jobs? We have a chronic skew: the best prospective students opt for professions other than those the economy needs,” he pointed out.

He mentioned statistics of Brest State Technical University. The highest score is required for the electronic economy specialization while the lowest score is needed for construction of buildings and structures as well as land amelioration and waterworks.

“Those are F grade and D grade students. Impossible to imagine. And the situation is similar in all the other higher education institutions. Particularly with technical professions,” the prime minister said.

Belarusian National Technical University requires the highest passing score to enroll for the marketing specialization and the business administration specialization. But in order to study vacuum and compressor machines and equipment, one just has to be an F grade student. Not even a D grade student.

“That would be acceptable if these market analysts and managers could secure gains for us and the enterprises would have no problems with selling their products or compiling business plans for the modernization of manufacturing facilities. But the government has to hire outside consultants in order to correct what economists of industrial enterprises write,” Roman Golovchenko said. “It seems to me it is the key task the higher education system needs to work on. The most talented prospective students are enrolled into the specializations the country needs least of all. And it is something all the university rectors and the Education Ministry should work on.”

Rector of Brest State Technical University Sergei Kasperovich explained the reason behind such skews. In his words, for instance, not only prospective students want the electronic economy specialization. The best enterprises hunger to hire these graduates. They work with business intellect systems and big data ones. The specialization offers only free education only to three people, this is why the passing score is higher here.

It is impossible to resolve the problem of not so popular specializations without future employers, Sergei Kasperovich said. The Brest university is working on it. For instance, over 20 engineer classes and groups have been created in Brest Oblast. They are supposed to encourage school students to opt for engineer professions.

The president said: “I understand and support the prime minister's question. We have to polish some things in this regard. Rectors cannot resolve everything on their own. But this system needs tuning. A good remark but it is possible you and I should be the ones to answer it instead of rectors.”

At the same time the head of state stressed that rectors of higher education institutions will not be forced to deal with strict limitations. If they see that some specializations are popular on the market, then it is necessary to focus on them. “On the other hand, if some enterprise needs specific workers, then you should enroll the appropriate students and let the enterprise pay for it. Demand payment. We will always support you on that,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

A Belarusian movie about teachers

Director of Minsk's secondary school No.73 Irina Rodik also talked about ways to support teachers and popularize this profession. She said: “All kinds of support are important here: instructional, psychological, financial, and moral support. In my opinion, today we could do with a live image of a hardworking pedagogue. I would like parents of our students to see and understand the life of teachers with the daily cares, teachers, who do their jobs with due diligence and with love every day.”

The headmistress suggested that social advertising, promotional videos, and possibly a Belarusian movie made to popularize the pedagogue profession may help create an image of the pedagogue everyone can understand and relate to.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked: “So make this film then. The movie [On the Other Bank] was made ahead of People's Unity Day. I've watched it, too. Well, it is not ideal. Above the average. But it is a movie. It already tells us something.”

Speaking about making a movie about teachers, the head of state said: “We will give you money for it but teachers should make it. Movie professionals are going to be filming while you will have to call the shots. Without embellishing. Otherwise, people will refuse to watch it. You are right. Not only teachers. We have to portray other categories of our workers from the positive angle, too.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko complained that many modern movies, including foreign ones, which are available for viewing in Belarus, often focus on “killing, knifing, and raping”.

Free rein for the education minister

Summing up results of the government conference, Aleksandr Lukashenko urged to stop all kinds of radical policy changes and not interfere with the education minister's work. Meanwhile, oblast governors are supposed to work harder to take care of practical matters: “It is necessary to put a stop to all kinds of radical policy changes in the Education Ministry. It is very important. There is the ministry. The leadership. We've determined this wheel track as I say. Don't interfere with the work of the minister and the Education Ministry. They are wise people and know how various matters should be handled according to the law, the legislation, and the Constitution. Let them work.”

The president warned the ministry's personnel: if someone is not satisfied with the minister or the top officials, then they should find another job. “You understand my hints and know what I am talking about,” he noted.

“If we don't allow him [the education minister] to work… Whoever is appointed education minister will not be able to work because everyone approaches the Education Ministry and tries to help, give hints, or get things done the way they want,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

“Today we've finished the conversation about the tasks the education system faces. We are moving on,” the president stressed. “It applies least of all to the education minister but more to the oblast governors. If you hear how you should act, do it. We will be unable to get things done in healthcare or education without the oblast governors.”

Heads of the oblast administrations should primarily focus on practical matters. “The minister and the government have to see from up top how people [on the ground] work,” the head of state said. “Concrete matters concerning schools such as buses, meals, and the rest should be handled by oblast governors and heads of district administrations. Take care of it.”

Information attacks and a leak about “the president's new residence”

At the end of the conference Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that an election campaign will take place in Belarus soon. Belarusian teachers and professors make a large contribution to the organization of elections. This is why the head of state warned that the opposition may try to bring pressure to bear.

“Ideological and information pressure on us has already begun. Information has started circulating recently claiming that Lukashenko has built a new residence for himself, that the Belarusian People's Congress is likely to take place there. I thought: where was it built? Who built it? They couldn't have built it without my authorization. It turns out that a large hospital for government officials has been handed over to [Chairman of the Minsk City Executive Committee Vladimir] Kukharev. A small one has been built outside the city. There was an old rehabilitation center there. It was repaired by the Belarus President Property Management Directorate. Rehabilitation is now available on the first floor. I gave instructions to gather under one roof all the charity foundations that we've closed at the top floor. They cured doggies, cats, and so on,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “I have enough places for work. I work here [in the Palace of Independence] and outside the city. My offices look the same. I don't need anything else.”

He noted that such information leaks are only designed to besmirch the authorities.

“They start a pressure campaign and choose targets, people who should be pressured and who should be attacked. Tarnishing the authorities is the key. This is why keep it in mind. We have to inform people and explain things to them. I am well aware of it: an information attack against everyone, who is more or less a patriot, is being prepared. This is why we will have to resist it as well,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The president explained that not only fugitive opposition and the government's opponents, who hide in the woodwork, do it. There are other forces behind all of it but they don't act directly.

“I just want you to know that we will not be left alone. We have to be ideologically strong. We have to work without looking backwards and do specific deeds, do what people are concerned about,” he said.

UNCONDITIONAL DISCIPLINE. Who did the president threaten to “unequip” if his instructions are not fulfilled?

A nationwide seminar-conference on the development of the animal husbandry industry in Belarus took place in Minsk Oblast at the end of the week. It gathered about 300 people, including heads of district administrations, heads of major agricultural enterprises, and scientists. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko went to Soligorsk on 22 September where he took part in the plenary session of the seminar-conference.

By the way, nationwide seminars on the most urgent problems of various branches of the economy have already become a useful tradition for Belarus. They offer an opportunity to learn straight from the horse's mouth the actual state of affairs in a branch of the economy, to borrow positive practices, and identify the tasks that need to be addressed without delay.

The state of affairs in the animal husbandry industry

The animal husbandry industry plays a key role in the rural economy, the head of state emphasized. This sector makes more than half of all agricultural products and forms the country's export potential.

“Indeed, there are certain successes. The level of self-sufficiency in milk exceeds 260%, in meat - 130%. In other words, we fully ensure our own food security and sell the surplus to foreign markets,” the president said.

By exporting food, Belarus earned over $8 billion last year and over $4 billion in January-August 2023. “At first glance, the figures look decent. But these figures are far from the ones we can have,” the Belarusian leader is convinced. “After all, as you all know, the demand for food in the world is huge, prices are growing and will continue to grow, and new markets are opening up. It is simply a crime to sit idly in such a unique situation.”

Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned a tactical plan developed back in 2019 to guide the development of the industry. The most important documents were also adopted, including strategies to develop the dairy and meat industries, the Rural Development Directive, the Agrarian Business Program, and a set of measures to step up fodder production). However, the results leave much to be desired for now.

“Negligence at the local level can nullify all the efforts the state is making to develop dairy production,” the president stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that the modernization of animal husbandry facilities needs to continue and 10 dairy complexes have to be built or reconstructed in every oblast within the next few years. The head of state told the heads of the oblast administrations: “As of today we will consider these new dairy farms to be your personal investment projects. Let's look at the returns.”

The cattle reproduction technology

One of the problems the animal husbandry industry has is low herd reproduction. “Good productivity should be ensured, among other things, by well-managed selection and breeding work. Scientists believe that effective reproduction is the birth of 95 calves per 100 cows. In 1990 Belarus kept this figure at 90 calves. For the last few years, however, we have had only 72-75 calves per 100 cows. Moreover, we fail to even keep all the calves we get. This is why the cattle numbers are decreasing,” the president emphasized.

“I do not know what our governors lack. Reproduction technologies? The country has a whole network of breeding services under the patronage of the Agriculture and Food Ministry. I believe the new minister should cooperate with the Academy of Sciences, develop and implement an effective and affordable technology. The task is to increase the breeding herd. It is inadmissible that the farms that have been built or reconstructed still lack livestock. Some of them have been in such a state for more than five years already,” the head of state said.

Forage harvesting and the lack of equipment, livestock for farms

According to the State Control Committee, nearly 16,000 cattle stalls are underequipped. The president instructed the agriculture and food minister, the government, and the oblast governors to equip farms and ensure an increase in the milking herd by the end of the year. He said he would hold them personally responsible for it. Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that cattle with high productivity should be kept in these stalls. The farms should not be equipped only for the sake of appearances.

Aleksandr Lukashenko warned: “If you don't do it, if you don't equip these complexes, I promise to you that I will ‘unequip' all of you. I have enough resolve for it. I am not going to play nice with you. I have never done that regardless of whatever election [campaigns] we may face. Because we may bury the country otherwise. We may fall so far that instead of exporting $8 billion [worth of food] we may have nothing to feed the nation with.”

The key task in poultry farming is to reduce the industry's dependence on imports, Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized. So far there has been no alternative to imported chickens for the production of hatching eggs.

“You have been telling me about these chickens and eggs for some 5-10 years. Can't we finally start producing them ourselves? We need to ensure our own breeding products. Set up a breeding and genetic center similarly to the one the cattle breeders have. You have six months to develop a business plan, and this project must be implemented next year,” the president gave instructions. “Let us raise these funds and build this center. After all, our poultry farms are not poor.”

Reserves of the Belarusian countryside

The head of state stressed that reserves of Belarusian agribusiness are concentrated in the processing of animal husbandry products: “It is in the animal husbandry industry, to be exact, in processing that reserves of the Belarusian countryside are concentrated today.”

The workload of facilities that make meat and sausages was only about 70% in 2022. The workload of facilities that make whole-milk products was as low as 60%. “How many tonnes of milk, meat, and billions of rubles did we fail to get in the end?” the president wondered. “We are lucky that we have the processing industry. It means we can make as many products as we want thanks to land and we are ready to process them.”

Brest Oblast Governor Yuri Shuleiko noted that Brest Oblast enterprises are ready to process more products than they do now. Some of them are operating way below their capacity. For instance, they can process about 20% more milk and much more meat.

Personnel shortage

The head of state mentioned another problem of the animal husbandry industry: “Personnel shortage. It is perhaps a systemic problem of this industry. It is necessary to involve everyone in the resolution of the personnel problem. If we have normal workforce, if we have specialists, then there will be production. We have to clench our teeth and do it. Nobody will do it instead of us. The personnel shortage problem needs to be resolved. It is not good that we train contract students but at most half of the graduates keep doing the assigned jobs.”

The head of state instructed the State Control Committee to look into the matter and find out to where the workforce is disappearing to. “Find out. Find out in fundamental ways where these people are,” the president urged.

Apart from administrative measures every agricultural enterprise needs a system to keep their personnel, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out. It is also necessary to work with school students and university students. Moreover, there are plenty of people willing to work in agriculture. “Think about ways to attract and keep young people starting with housing and ending with exemplary working conditions. If we don't resolve the problem of qualified personnel shortage, the economy of the countryside will keep underperforming,” he said.

The tasks the animal husbandry industry has to accomplish

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “From now on iron, unconditional discipline will become the motto of agribusiness. Labor discipline. Financial discipline. Technological discipline. You have to do what you have to do.”

The head of the state instructed the government together with the Agriculture and Food Ministry, heads of the oblast administrations, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus under firm control of law enforcement and oversight agencies to ensure the realization of key directions.

First. Strict observance of zootechnic and veterinary norms of keeping and feeding of cattle and poultry. Second. Prevention of the loss of cattle. “Men, don't take offense. It is the last time we talk about it. You will not be able to justify your failures. I am not going to even listen to you. Starting 1 January things will be extremely difficult for those, who failed to hear me or heard me and failed to make conclusions,” the president warned.

Third. The need to stock up on feed to fully meet the demand of the public animal husbandry industry while observing technological requirements and industry-specific regulations. “Quality is the key,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. Fourth. Increasing the economic effectiveness of the animal husbandry industry on the basis of stock breeding. Fifth. It is necessary to increase the workload of meat-packing plants while ruling out criminal schemes during cattle sales. Sixth. Order in bookkeeping of agricultural enterprises, including initial records of cattle transfers and statistic reports.

Seventh. It is necessary to staff agricultural enterprises with veterinary specialists and workers. “You have to spend all you have but five to six executives (head agronomist, head animal technician, head veterinary doctor, head engineer and so on) should be provided with everything they need,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Eighth. Unwavering observance of internal labor regulations, labor discipline, standing requirements for manufacturing processes and the quality of products by workers of agricultural enterprises. “Take good care of machines, vehicles, and equipment. They cost crazy money. Nobody will give you so much money in the future. The state has to take care of its own problems: social sphere, roads, land amelioration, efforts to increase soil fertility, and the rest. Those are the responsibility of the state. We cannot subsidize your business. But for now we dole out what little we have and try to satisfy every need,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko is convinced that cleanliness, order, and good agricultural products are Belarusian brands. He said: “Everyone looks at us and admires us. So let's support this brand. I mean the demand for our products. Particularly products of agriculture. Even Russia admires our products although it is a cutting-edge country. We shouldn't lose it. It is our brand: cleanliness, order, and good products. Men, let's make it happen.”

The president's key demand

The head of state stated that there is no need for extremely advanced technologies in agriculture. Addressing the obvious problems is what matters.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Do you see how they bomb Russia these days? Do you see the drones flying back and forth? It is a new problem. A most difficult one. So, these [private military company] Wagner personnel are staying in Belarus now and tell everyone how this war goes on. I think: how can I counteract it? There are various options. They cost hundreds of millions of rubles. So I think: should I go ahead with land amelioration, till and commission new lands or should I fight these drones? A terrible weapon. So Putin and I discussed it. It costs crazy money! Yet life is more precious.”

The president pointed out that certainly, the government will support agriculture in Belarus but money will not be buried in soil just like that. “And we are not going to deal with those of you who don't want to work either. Not because I am an evil person. But because there is no other way: we have to preserve the country,” he said.

“I am also surprised how today we manage to sit and talk about pig breeding amid all the turmoil around the country. Speculate how we should cook shashlik and what not. People have already forgotten about it. Even in rich countries. They talk about Poland. So what about it? Yuri Vitoldovich [Shuleiko, Brest Oblast Governor] and Vladimir Stepanovich [Karanik, Grodno Oblast Governor] are close to Poland. They know things. So what about Poland? Americans are spending crazy amounts of money over there,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

So now Poland has started quarrelling with Ukraine. Poland initially supported Vladimir Zelensky by all means. But now Poland sharply criticizes Ukraine. Aleksandr Lukashenko explained who is really behind it: “Do you think Poland puts pressure on poor Ukraine for no reason? No. An overseas order has been given: it is time to get rid of Zelensky, we are sick and tired of him. Elections will take place in American soon. Nobody will care about it. And we have to defend ourselves. Because we don't know what to expect from these mad Polish politicians.”

“This is why I want you to understand that we don't have any excessive money to spare. And there will be accountability for every kopeck. I am not saying we will not implement something. We are cost-conscious people. But men, it is not enough today. I don't urge you to introduce space technologies in agriculture. Fix the bottlenecks that exist today. Resolve the problems that lie on the surface. And it will be enough for our generation. If you make a promise, act upon it. Continue acting,” the president said.

Results of the conference

Summing up results of the conference, the head of state stressed that it is abnormal that authorities on the ground make decisions but these decisions are not fulfilled. “This is why I simply warn you as a friend: law enforcement and oversight agencies will bring crazy pressure to bear during the winter housing season. Don't take offense,” the president said.

At the same time the head of state addressed law enforcement and oversight agencies with a request: before reporting new facts of mismanagement to the president, they have to discuss the uncovered issues with the oblast governors.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to support for qualified workers of agricultural enterprises. The president wants them to have decent salaries and housing. “As for personnel. Work out any measures you deem necessary by the end of the year. Determine the fund of salaries for executives and specialists. You have to pay specialists well. We hold primarily specialists accountable for results. They represent a small number of people on the scale of a district or an oblast. Personnel underpins everything,” the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko also reminded about the work with contract students. He stressed that employer-sponsored education contracts should be signed with promising kids. The requirement applies not only to agriculture. “There should be no kidding about it,” he remarked.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “Our key problem lies in basic things: in discipline. Discipline is more than thumping the table with your fist. You can thump the table when you have a system in place. But if you have no sensible system for doing business and managing things, then what good would thumping do? Nobody will understand it. Heads of city, district, and oblast administrations have to work together to work out a clear-cut system and act without waiting for instructions from someone else. If you make errors… Just don't make fatal errors. One can always excuse a person for an error if the person tries to do good. But if someone sits idle and doesn't know what to do or knows what to do but doesn't do it, then why would we need such an executive? This is why act. You are generals on the ground.”

The president remarked that the next few years will not be simple for the power vertical. Particularly for the “troika” in the regions: the president's plenipotentiary for an oblast, the oblast governor, and the president's aide. “You will have to organize election campaigns over there. We have to show everyone that we have a country and we will run this country,” the head of state said.

“Thank you for the meeting. I see that most of you understand me. Act! I urge you to act. Don't stop. If there is a problem, feel free to contact me. You know how,” the head of state concluded.

TERRIBLE PRESSURE. How does Belaruskali tackle Western sanctions?

While in Soligorsk, Aleksandr Lukashenko decided to meet with Director General of the Soligorsk-based company Belaruskali Ivan Golovaty. It is worth noting that news of the meeting was released only minutes before the plenary session of the nationwide seminar-conference on the development of the animal husbandry industry. Of course, the room was prepared in no time. It was revealed later on that the company's deputy director general for social affairs had loaned it.

Aleksandr Lukashenko told Ivan Golovaty: “Reporters say that the country has not seen you for a long time. I'd like you to inform me about the situation at the enterprise. Just the two of us. Sincerely. Without fear. Although you don't scare easily. But nevertheless.”

First of all the head of state wondered what problems Belaruskali is encountering now and how the work to master port facilities in Russia was proceeding. “How are we doing there? What else do we need to do?” the president wondered. “And the key question: how do you feel considering the terrible sanctions-fueled pressure on the enterprise?”

Ivan Golovaty told Aleksandr Lukashenko that the enterprise is now operating at 80% of its capacity. In his words, the figure is much higher than the one registered at the beginning of the year. “Your instruction to make and export at least 8 million tonnes will be fulfilled. We already project it will be done based on the results of January-September,” the Belaruskali CEO stated.

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