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A purely analytical perception...


Belarus

Another Place in Another Time

 

Continued from page 1

Not Really A Good Sport

In addition to all of the wonderful characteristics the Belarusian President has exemplified in characteristics reviewed previously, he has this one serious problem, he just doesn’t take kindly to criticism and indicates that he has had it up to here with the pot shots that have been fired at him regarding the repressive political system that he his running as well of his country’s total lack of human rights of any kind. He openly longs for the good old days of Stalin when there was real order and discipline and openly indicates that Hitler really knew how to run a country.

He's Just One of The Guys

But Lukashenko has his lighter moments like the time when an international ballooning competition made the mistake of asking and receiving permission from Belarus to use their airspace as a small segment of the contest. American balloonist Alan Fraenckel and British subject John Stuart-Jervis were drifting above the lovely countryside of Belarus when they were approached by helicopter gunship, which summarily blew them out of the sky. Both U. S and British authorities went ballistic and the American State Department called the action "outrageous and indefensible". Not being satisfied with blowing a defenseless balloon out of the sky, the Belarusian Government ordered Serzh Alexandrov, first secretary of the U. S. Embassy out of the country, charging him with "provocative" behavior.

What I Really Need Is The Freedom To Do Whatever I Want!

Lukashenko is apparently not satisfied with the total power he is enjoying and has asked for a referendum to change to country’s constitution in order to allow him to do anything he wants legally (not that he can’t and isn’t doing it already). He has already granted himself lifetime immunity from any action that he takes while in office by, among other things, extending his presidential term, replacing a contentious parliament and making himself a minister for eternity or his life, whichever is longer. In recent elections, 70% of a population that views him as the "devil incarnate" gave him their vote.


We Believe That He Is A Good Man, Just Very  Misunderstood And Having A Bad Hair Day

The people are not all against him and he has preserved many of their jobs by making privatization a bad word and building a fat bureaucracy that is almost obsessive in its support for his stranger than life ideas.. Thus, under his benevolent government, the country has no money that has any value; it is politically, socially and economically bankrupt. However, the people have jobs and the prices of staples are kept artificially low so that everyone remains adequately fed.

As a matter of fact, he even boasts about the fact that both McDonalds and Coca-Cola have set up branches in his country. If that doesn’t make them democratic, than what could?

Even The Hungry Russian Bear Doesn't Find Lukashenko Appetizing

Although, Lukashenko's top priority is the realignment of Belarus with Russia, the Russians have held him at bay. Yeltsin, although one of the few of the world’s diplomats still on speaking terms with the volatile leader, wants no part of a system that makes Russia look like a thriving country and would only add another weight to its own desperate economic plight.

We award Lukashenko, our misguided missile of the century trophy and god help the world if he ever receives the guided missile prize. This guy is probably incapable of removing his finger from the firing pin once he starts shooting.

Multinationals and the Government

Most of the multinationals that were attracted to Belarus after the breakup have long since pulled up stakes. McDonalds on the other hand has survived albeit poorly. They had originally committed to the opening of 20 hamburger stores in the country but when the Belarus Bunny (currency) collapsed, prices on retail goods were frozen and McDonalds' profits went up the chimney. The Government was unhappy that McDonalds did not open more stores, in spite of the fact that people were paying the back market equivalent of the world highest price, $4 for one without the trimmings. Enterprise and Investment Minister Alexander Sazonov in an interview with Reuters on October 7, 1998 stated, "McDonalds has not created a single enterprise here as provided for by our agreement. It therefore has no right to any preferential treatment. They always needed some sort of special conditions in converting Belarussian rubles, in setting prices and duties. Now McDonalds will have to cope with the same problems all Belarussian enterprises have." Wow!

McDonalds has opened five restaurants and has one more on the way. In spite of over $15 million already invested, the hamburger giant has discovered that Belarus is a very expensive place to do business. A spokesman for McDonalds said, "We found it difficult to explain to authorities that the company's plans are dictated by pricing considerations; meat prices are 30 percent higher here than in Russia. Even straws for drinks cost 10 times what they do in Poland. In spite of this, Belarus regulations demand that supplies be purchased locally. Thus, with real wages dropping, a currency in free fall, products either unavailable locally or off the wall relative to price and a currency that is virtually blocked, McDonalds does not seem to have much of a future in this County. The average hamburger at McDonalds is now not economically available to the normal Belarusian and conditions only seem to be getting worse.

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