Rise in energy costs hits entrepreneurs in Maladzechna

On January 26, the Maladzechna branch of the Energasbyt, the state-owned company that sells electrical power to Belarus consumers, belatedly notified the local small-scale private businesses that the electricity tariffs had been raised at 25 percent, effective from January 1, 2007.

The rise in electricity costs was expected. And, everyone knew it would affect all, regardless of the form of ownership.


But, Energasbyt picked the entrepreneurs, whom it wanted to send the bad news first. And, it is clear why.

Under an Economy Ministry resolution, beginning from February 2006 all private businesses has to pay their electricity bills one month ahead. January became no exception, and entrepreneurs transferred the down-payments to the electricity supplier in the first days of the month. Now, they have to send more to cover the 25 percent difference.

Aleh Mikalajeu, a local entrepreneur, runs three food stores in town. He has already transferred Br4 million ($2000) as a down-payment for the electricity bills. He is not surprised with the fact that the new tariffs notice came backdated.

Last year, the notice about the rise in electricity costs at 13.32 percent, effective from February 1, was issued on February 22. “But, this is not the way business is done, when they demand you pay extra for something I have already bought,” Aleh says. Now he will have to pay the remainder of almost Br700,000 ($350).

By the way, when the clerks from the Maladzechna branch of the Energasbyt Company were calling the local entrepreneurs to notify them about the tariff changes, they had not yet received a relevant circular from Minsk. It was yet to arrive by the late afternoon only.

In the view of Aleh Mikalajeu, officials thus wanted to probe the reaction of the local businesses to the new resolution. Others suggest the notice came deliberately before the weekend in order to give the businesses more time to collect the cash, as not every entrepreneur would find it easily. The representatives of Energasbyt in Maldzechna refused to comment.