Entrepreneurs keep their businesses closed

Is it a form of protest against the government’s pressure on entrepreneurs or are vendors still resting during the New Year’s festive season? Businessman Alexander Potupa says it should not be regarded as a strike. It will take one week to understand whether entrepreneurs are striking or are recovering slowly from holidays.

Potupa said: “There was an idea to have people close down their shops for a two-week holiday and not to pay taxes for this period. It would look like a strike as well. In the first two days of the new year, market places were not busy as very many outlets were closed.

I think it is still early to draw any conclusions. Let’s wait for several more days and see whether it is a natural drop in activities in the festive season or a protest action”.

It was only the eastern city of Mahilyou where around 500 entrepreneurs gathered on the main square today to hold negotiations with the local authorities.

“We had a meeting with Viktar Krasouski, who is in charge of entrepreneurship in our region. We also had a representative of the regional executive committee’s economy department. They said that the issue with sole entrepreneurs had been resolved completely. They promised to pass our demands over to Vice PM Kabyakou. However, they focused on telling us to bring our proposals on how to re-organize ourselves into unitary private enterprises”, entrepreneur Svyatlana Skal told the European Radio for Belarus.

After the administrations of the local market places warned entrepreneurs that they would be deprived of the working places, most of the protesters reopened their businesses.

On December 29, 2007 Alexander Lukashenka issued his decree No 685 which extended the term of simplified registration into unitary private enterprises up to March 1, 2008. However, this has not improved the situation in general.

Alexander Potupa: “It looks like a bone thrown from a master’s table, because it doesn’t resolve the problems of entrepreneurs. In my view, two additional months cannot change the situation drastically.

Those who cannot or do not want to re-register because of the scale of their operation will eventually end up in a very difficult situation anyway. Possibly, they will close their businesses. Some of them have already done that”.

Alexander Potupa believes that the slow pace of businesses in the first days of the new year will be interpreted as a strike. However, entrepreneurs are preparing more actions, including a rally on January 10 on October Square in Minsk.