Lukashenka: Utility rates should be affordable

Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed the importance of affordable utility rates for households while he was speaking at a national seminar on the development of Belarus’ utilities sector on Friday.

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“I set the task for everyone: we will raise utility rates once in 2018 and by only $5 and there cannot be any further rise without my approval,” the Belarusian leader said. “Utility rates should be affordable for people. I order the government and the State Control Committee to carry out a detailed check in this regard. We will set the rates on January 1, 2018 by order of the president.”

According to Mr. Lukashenka, the prices of utilities are “traditionally” raised in Belarus at the beginning of the year by the rubel equivalent of $5.

“As far as I know, such an increase already took place in January 2017,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “Nevertheless, the government, the relevant ministry and the trade ministry raised the rates by eight percent in September and are beginning to frighten people that they will further raise them by 10 percent in December. And this is coupled with the fact that in November everybody will naturally start to pay more because the heating was turned on. This is an approach directed against the people. This is not how things should be. There will be a significant increase in utility bills, which will not be welcomed by the public.”

Mr. Lukashenka warned against frightening Belarusians with conversations that they will soon have to pay for utilities in full.

“This is a political issue, among other things, and there should not be any hurry,” he said. “We will first count the rates precisely so that those who supply electricity and water do not live in clover and do not solve their problems by means of the population. Then we will make a decision when and how we will get to full cost recovery.”

“We should not adjust ourselves to anybody. Remember that the main priority of our social policy is the interests of people and not the interests of agencies and various international bodies,” Mr. Lukashenka stressed.

The full cost recovery rate for utilities is one of the requirements that the International Monetary Fund sets for the Belarusian government in exchange for a new loan.