Sole entrepreneurs in Vitsyebsk petition Lukashenka over new certification rules


Small business owners with sole entrepreneur status in Vitsybsk have petitioned Alyaksandr Lukashenka to prevent the introduction of new certification rules for light industry goods within the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Approved by the Commission of the Customs Union and scheduled to take effect on July 1, the rules prohibit the sale of clothes and footwear without a special label confirming their compliance with the Customs Union's safety standards. The sellers will be required to submit samples of their goods to laboratories for testing and pay the certification costs.

On June 6, thousands of vendors who hold stalls at marketplaces in Vitsyebsk staged a one-day strike against the scheduled introduction of the rules.

Iryna Yaskevich, chairperson of an independent trade union of small entrepreneurs called Razam (Together), told reporters in Minsk on Monday that small business owners were opposed not to the certification of light industry goods but to shifting the costs of this procedure from manufacturers and primary suppliers onto sellers.

Businesspeople who bring in five or 10 items of clothing or footwear cannot afford to pay almost two million rubels ($230) to have them certified, Ms. Yaskevich said.

The new certification system will cause cheap goods to disappear from markets, strengthen the hand of monopolists and force businesspeople to stop paying taxes and the rent and making contributions to the Social Security Fund, which will create a major hole in the budget, she said.

Ms. Yaskevich noted that small entrepreneurs would face severe penalties for violating the rules, including the confiscation of their goods and fines of up to 500 times the Base Rate, or 10 million rubels at present.

Economist Lew Marholin, who is deputy chairperson of the United Civic Party, noted that not all small business owners understood the danger of the new certification rules. However, protests will break out as soon as authorities start confiscating goods, he said. // BelaPAN