Notorious Prakapovich draws fire on himself

Lukashenka’s idea of imposing tougher measures on people doing shopping abroad might become grave reality. The former Head of the National Bank, who is often accused of the 2011 devaluation of the Belarusian rubel, is making diminutive attempts to soothe Belarusians saying that the tax won’t affect tourists.

It is noteworthy that Piotr Prakapovich repeatedly made promises not to devaluate the Belarusian rubel. “While I am the chairman of the National Bank, there will be no single-stage devaluation. We have enough experience, accumulated over 15 years, and this experience suggests that this is a bad decision for the Belarusians. As it’s a bad decision, we’re not going to implement it . <…> There won’t be even 5% devaluation,” he said on March 17, 2011. On May 24, 2011 the national currency was devaluated by 54%.

Prakapovich: Travel duty coming soon

Now the top official is standing in jeopardy of becoming the best hated man of the Government. Lukashenka might have been the architect of the concept but Mr Prakapovich is the first to have specified its putting into practice.

“The Government is now considering the idea. We are taking a closer look at it. I think that within a month or so we will give answers to all the questions,” news agency BelTA quotes Piotr Prakapovich as saying. If the special tax is approved, it will not affect citizens, who leave the country for tourism purposes, he promises.

According to economist Aliaksandr Sinkevich, voicing the idea of taxing people going abroad bears witness to the fact that the situation in foreign trade is complicated. The problem is mounting due to African swine fever breakout and the conflict with Uralkali. Will silent majority be responsible for the country’s salvation again?

What does the state bargain for?

In 2012 Belarusian border officers recorded 8.4 mln departures of our nationals; this figure only increasing in 2013.

Experts have been sceptical about the implementation of the idea since the head of state aird it. “There are no such practices concerning private persons in the world; actually, this is nothing else but creating another iron curtain which could not be long-lived in the current context. Forcible measures won’t work; on the contrary, they may backfire: forbidden goods will be smuggled or moved across the Russian border,” Aliaksandr Sinkevich believes.

Predictable reaction

Along with the Belarusian ruble devaluation and increasing car duties this decision might become one of the most unpopular steps taken by the authorities. It is to be recalled that the situation is developing amid statements of taking belt-tightening measures: the government is going to curtail the defense budget and cut down expenses on sports, science, etc.

Being interviewed by Belsat TV journalists a majority of respondents have spoken against the initiative. “On the one hand, state budget should be recharged, on the other hand, if people are well-paid there will be no need to do shopping in Poland,” a resident of Brest said.

Deliberate move?

Last week the head of state voiced his intention to impose a duty for Belarusians who go shopping to foreign countries.

The emphatic statement (“We took $3 bn out to them [EU], they are developing trade and production while we are fooling about!”) might have been considered as a political hiccup but Lukashenka added that he did order to develop this idea long time ago.

“It will be the following way: we provide you services at border, you pay us $100 for each person and go,” he explained.

Zmitser Yahorau/MS

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