Point of VIEW.
A purely analytical perception...
Place in Another Time
Continued from page 1
Really A Good Sport
is method to Lukashenkos madness. In Belarusian schools, there is no contact
with the outside world and students are only taught what the State wants them
to know. Basically, their education is a twisted form of brain-washing which turns
out compliant automatons in assembly line fashion. Worse yet, spies are interspersed
among the to inform on others. Basically they are there to determine who is loyal
and who isnt. Those who pass the loyalty test go on to solid, although dull
government jobs, those who fail are sent to Chernobyl to help the dying peasants.
The teachers, too, are obligated to remain unwaveringly loyal to the state and
those who do not are either fired or sent to Chernobyl as well.
those that tried to help suffered equally:
May 15, 1997
The Honorable Alyaksandr Lukashenko
Republic of Belarus
I write to protest your
government's arbitrary attempt to seize the assets of the Belarusian Soros Foundation.
As you know, we believe there is no legal basis for the fines levied against the
Foundation. Now, however, your government goes further: without waiting for the
legal process to go forward, your government is acting unilaterally to close the
Foundation by seizing its bank account.
government's actions have been accompanied by inflammatory and unfounded accusations
against the Foundation. These indicate that the effort to close the Foundation
is politically motivated and lacks a basis in law. We appeal to you to respect
due process of law and to terminate the effort to seize the assets of the Foundation.
We are aware, of course, that it is not only the Belarusian
Soros Foundation that is under attack. Other independent organization of civil
society and the independent media in Belarus are also the targets of this onslaught.
We fear that, unless you take steps promptly to end these attacks, the effect
would be to reimpose a totalitarian regime on the citizens of Belarus.
We Like Mother Russia
founding of the United Nations, a series of national breakups caused international
upheavals. In some cases, the newly ordained countries were so pleased to be free
of their yokes that they merely went about the business of creating a better place
to live for their citizens.
In others such as Belarus and
the Ukraine, nervous times have prevailed, because substantial sophisticated weaponry
has at times fallen into the hands of pathological leaderships. Nevertheless,
while these situations in many cases have miraculously been brought under control,
the world is still full of maniacs willing to sacrifice their own lives for what
they believe to be the virtual will of God.
to now for civilization, these fanatics have historically lacked the intellectual
resources to create and deliver weapons of mass destruction. However, nations
like North Korea have gone into the weapons delivery business and promise their
clients that they can literally drop a bomb on your suspected enemies at will.
If you dont have your own weapons, they can provide you with anything from
poison gas to nuclear warheads. Thus, the ante has risen substantially in the
last several years and with unstable regimes, today being capable of destroying
substantially greater areas than ever before in history. This was one of the reasons
behind the American invasion of Iraq.
Moreover, we would
rank Belarus as one of the places most likely to cause the end of civilization
as we know it and there is not a substantial question that if they had the delivery
systems do so, we would at least be forced to listen to their blackmail. It is
ruled by its President, 49 year-old Alexander Lukashenko, a former collective
farm manager and a "compassionate" leader who has co-opted the countrys
secret police and raised them to a level never dreamed of, even by despots like
Joseph Stalin. However, Lukashenko is both liked and disliked among his countrymen.
Many think of him as a clod, who continuously combs the narrowing strands of hair
across his bald head. Others call him Batka-Dad or Batka-Luka, a term of endearment,
that indicates that he is the guy running the show here in this underdeveloped
and hopelessly oppressed country.
Through the use of his
private "secret police", Lukashenko has literally shut down all media
delivery systems carrying the flow of independent knowledge, including television
stations and newspapers, whose journalists are now calling the countrys
most feared prisons their homes. However, those are the lucky ones. The occasional
civilian aircraft that accidentally enters what is loosely called Belarusian airspace
is usually summarily shot down.
When two American balloonists drifted across his
domain during an international race, his military shot them down. When foreign
diplomats in Minsk, his capital, resisted an order to vacate their homes in a
leafy compound, workmen welded shut the American ambassadors front gate.
When a local pizza restaurant put too much ice in its margaritas, his officials
shut it down."*
combines the worst characteristics of many of the worlds most feared leaders.
He makes the paranoid reactions of Stalin seem a stroll in the park; he shares
the territorial aspirations of Genghis Khan while being endowed with the easy
going nature of Attila the Hun. He makes Hitlers justice seem almost democratic,
and rivals Horopito in deceitfulness. He is a fanatic fan of ex-Chilean despot,
Augusto Pinochet. Lukashenko's brand of "new age" despotism has ruffled
few foreign feathers so far, because he does not have the resources to move off
of dead center. However, this guy could teach even Libyas Qaddafi a few
new tricks on how to stir up trouble. Michael Kozak at his Senate confirmation
hearing for his approval as U.S. Ambassador to Belarus described the country as
the "Cuba of Europe."
During the Yugoslavian crisis,
Lukashenko seemed to be all over the place, helping all of Americas enemies.
In dramatic fashion he made the following statement: "We will give Yugoslavia
all the support and assistance that our Slavs need. We have sufficient capabilities
to provide the Yugoslavs with the most modern arms to fight both missiles and
aircraft. It will be very hot for the entire West." This became his great
opportunity to get some public relations for a country that many of us had not
even heard of at that point. The Washington Post wanted to make certain that we
were aware of exactly what this man was all about:
Europe's Other Dictator.
Tuesday, April 20, 1999; Page A22
IT IS EASY, too easy, to
dismiss Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko as a tin-pot joke. He operates
with the sophistication one would expect of a former Soviet collective-farm chairman.
He offers military aid to fellow-dictator Slobodan Milosevic, although his own
economy in Belarus is a shambles. After visiting Yugoslavia recently, he pronounced
that "thousands" of NATO troops are slipping across the border into
Romania, changing clothes and defecting.
But it would be
a mistake to underestimate Mr. Lukashenko and the menace he represents. Belarus
is a small and poor country, but its president has large ambitions. He would like
Belarus to reunite with Russia -- the only leader of a former Soviet republic
with such ambitions -- to give himself a larger stage. His instigation of a "Slavic
Union" of Russia, Belarus and Yugoslavia is one more step on that path, of
little practical significance but rhetorically useful. Even if, as is most likely,
these "unions" never come to pass, Mr. Lukashenko's tyranny exerts a
baleful influence on the young democracies such as Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland
that surround his nation.
Of course, those who suffer most
from his policies live inside Belarus. Standards of living have steadily declined.
Those who speak out against Mr. Lukashenko's rule risk exile or prison; former
prime minister Mikhail Chigir is in jail on trumped-up charges. Even those who
remain free are under great pressure; former deputy foreign minister Andrei Sannikov
was recently beaten by some of the Russian fascists who operate inside Belarus
with relative impunity.
Just as such fascists and ultranationalists
do not speak for most Russians, so Mr. Lukashenko can no longer claim to speak
for his nation. He long ago abrogated his constitution and made a mockery of its
democracy. The West may be distracted by its struggle in Yugoslavia, but it should
take Serbia as a lesson on how much damage even small-time dictators can cause.
That means reaching out to the democrats of Belarus who continue to oppose the
Milosevic-Lukashenko axis. (Washington Post)
This kind hearted man had literally installed himself as king,
despite the democratic underpinnings that the countrys constitution demands.
His term of office ran out in July of 1999. He then unilaterally extended his
term of office. Riots ensued, with wholesale cries for his resignation. Numerous
people were arrested by Lukashenkos secret police never to be seen again
and when enough of them had vanished, the riots strangely seemed to come to a
screeching halt. A substantial number of countries withdrew recognition
of Lukashenkos government at that time, including the United States and
the European Union. Belarus became the first country to ever lose guest status
in the Council of Europe because of Lukashenkos power grab, which included
absolute repression of the press. *
"Freedom of the press
is strictly curtailed and in 1999, greater restrictions were placed on the media.
In April a government memorandum banned government officials from passing official
documents to non-state media, and forbade state enterprises to place advertisements
in opposition publications. The State Committee on Television and Radio controls
broadcasting. A number of small, local, privately owned television stations broadcast
entertainment programming. The State Press Committee has warned and interfered
with a number of independent publications-Nasha Niva, Belaruskiye vedermostf,
Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, Krynitsa, Imy and Belaruskaya Maladzyozhnaya. The
State Press Committee repeatedly threatened the newspaper Naviny with closure,
formerly entitled Svaboda, it was closed in 1997. Naviny is expected
to resume under a third name, Nasha svaboda." *
Lukashenko created an information blockade (almost as big as in Iraq, Cuba, or
North Korea). There is no open access to the Internet (possibly a few thousand
government employees and researchers have access). Definitely, no access to any
Western newspapers. I'm not even talking about television. You would see Lukashenko's
face or listen to the news about Lukashenko's "democratic free-market reforms".
Lukashenko is a former Soviet army ideology instructor. His education only consists
of a vocational degree (not even Bachelors) in agriculture. And this man is now
the President of the country. Christopher Willoughby, head of the World Bank mission
in Minsk, once said: "I don't think Lukashenko has any real knowledge about
economics." Because of Lukashenko's background, his instinctive solution
to every problem is to issue a presidential decree - long after the Soviet-style
command economy collapsed in most Central and East European systems. For example,
every year, presidential decrees determine by how many percent GDP, industrial
and agricultural production, housing construction, exports, imports, and inflation
rate should grow. Even after IMF and the World Bank stopped their loan programs
in Belarus, "big brother" Russia backed Lukashenko. That is why the
international community would not dare to interfere because of fear of Russia.
The President controls everything and gives orders whenever he wants."
freedom, called for in the Belarusian Constitution is more of a joke than a reality,
especially if you belong to anything other than the Belarusian Orthodox Church,
a religion that encompasses over 80 percent of the population. The ever paranoid
Belarus Government is convinced that spies operate under the guise of other religious
denominations including those of the Catholic and Protestant faiths. Interestingly
enough, these denominations face horrendous barriers to building new churches,
and are not allowed to rent one under a bizarre law passed by the Belarus parliament
with this in mind. Basically, the Belarusian Government believed that if alien
religions can be eliminated, threats to the existing order will be substantially
reduced. As for the Jews, Lukashenko said that the "problem of anti-Semitism
has been engendered by the Jews themselves, the ones who work for the mass media."
I guess that there is some logic to this statement, but we are working on what
"And now a commentator, via the government-controlled
television, has accused the U.S. Embassy in Minsk of fomenting inter-religious
strife. According to Keston News Service, the TV commentator, Alexander Zimovsky
*, Mr. Lukashenkos cheerleader, charged that some 430 secret CIA agents
"have visited Belarus through the U.S. Embassy in Belarus over the past eight
years." These agents have prepared materials "aimed at discrediting
all issues of Belarusian policy" and financing "Belarusian opposition
groups and their leaders artificially forcing separatist moods and religious conflicts."
The act that Zimovsky
put on seemed to blame the United States Government and their covert operations
teams for all of the ill suffered by Belarus in their history. He went on to say
that: "The Americans are making a crude mistake in regarding Belarus as a
playground for their spies and Agents. Belarusian special services have something
with which to counter their attempts to act uncontrollably in our country."
This was probably made in response to the State Departments statements saying
for attribution that, "The United States will not recognize the outcome of
elections in Belarus that are not democratic." *
recently Belarus enacted what they call "About the Freedom of Confessions
and Religious Organization." This is work in process was drafted in part
by the Russian Orthodox Church and it would seem that if you don't belong to that
sect, then this country is really not for you. Moreover, even a small split with
that branch of the church is dangerous. "A western Belarus chapel of the
Russian Autocephalous Orthodox church, which has split from the main Orthodox
faith, was bulldozed in August" (The New York Times, 11/23/02 by Michael
Wines) of 2002 without even summarily being given notice. "Several Minsk
branches of the Full Gospel Pentecostal church, an evangelical Protestant faith
that is among the largest minority religions here, were notified in September
that their prayer services were illegal. The city's Hare Krishna temple received
the same notice. In October the head of the New Life Protestant Church was summoned
to a Minsk district administration office and told that unspecified complaints
had been filed against his church." Mr. Lukashenko is indeed an equal
The EU formerly declared that the country
is violating international principals of religious freedom and using that as their
excuse, refused to issue Mr. Lukashenko a visa. The United States totally concurred
and backed the Europeans to the hilt. All of the country's churches have lost
members because of the constant harassment by the Government, if they are not
Russian Orthodox. People of various persuasions have started to call themselves
something else in order to hold meetings as did the Hindus who often call their
meetings "a group of psychologists" getting together to discuss the
state of that art. Religion here has gone underground for many and the situation
is only getting worse by the day.
Man For All Seasons
Worst of all, Lukashenko seems
readily capable of going batso with almost no provocation and for the strangest
of reasons. This unflappable head of Belarus recently declared that a substantial
number of the foreign ambassadors living in the desirable Drozhdy diplomatic compound
near Minsk were somehow poaching on his personal property. He had the Belarus
Government declare that their homes belonged to Lukashenko personally. "Because
of this", he said, in the future, they would need passes to get in an out
of their own homes, and would no longer be furnished phone links, electricity
or water. Not satisfied with cutting off many of the critical necessities of life,
Lukashenko built a moat around the Ambassadors homes, preventing passage
by automobile, and the neighborhood waste was allowed to drain into the local
water supply, making the area no longer fashionable.
did not take long before the Ambassadors from France, Britain, Germany, Italy
and Greece, having had enough of Belarusian hospitality, went home only to find
out that they would not be allowed back without Lukashenko's permission. In the
meantime while western nations loudly proclaimed that Lukashenko has violated
the Vienna Convention, as it relates to diplomats, he has confiscated all but
the American and Russian Missions and is engaged in expanding his already monolithic
residence. This action seems to have set Lukashenko apart from almost every other
leader in history. Historically, foreign missions have been considered to be foreign
territory and as such they are usually considered untouchable.
it is clear that Lukashenko doesnt believe in the sanctity of anything.
When almost every country in the world agreed to sanctions against Iraq after
their invasion of Kuwait, Belarus immediately made arrangements to act as a straw
man for Iraq. "In the shadows of the oil-trading world, however, a weird
system has grown up over the past two months. Several dozen unknown companies
have emerged as the main buyers of Iraqi crude. Based in places such as Belarus,
Liechtenstein and Malaysia, these companies exist only on paper. They apparently
pay the surcharges and then sell Iraqi crude to established oil trading
firms. Giant oil companies then buy the Iraqi crude from the traders. The majors
demand assurances that the traders havent paid any surcharge, but as one
analyst notes, "some of these traders will sell their mother for a buck."
Not Really A Good Sport
addition to all of the wonderful characteristics that the Belarusian President
has exemplified in the warm and engaging personality that we reviewed previously,
he has this one serious problem. It seems that the head of Belarus just has an
neurotic aversion 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 is running. Moreover, he is not at all happy with reporters and other
do-gooders taking the country to task for its total lack of human rights of any
kind. Moreover, he openly longs for the good old days of Stalin when there was
real order and discipline and has told anyone that is willing to listen that Hitler
really knew how to run a country. We have here a man that sees a lot of good in
the two greatest despots in human history and if his country was only a tad larger
and bit more economically developed, we firmly believe that this maniac would
have already made the rest of us, toast.
This guy is a
real family man: "Victor Lukashenko, the oldest son of the Belarusian President,
Alexander Lukashenko, shot in the stomach Mikhail Zarharov, the head coach of
the Belarusian national hockey team, over the argument of who is going to be on
the team for the next international match." * Victors ire didnt
stop at one shooting, he also shot a security guard who had come to the aid of
Zarharov. Victor proved that he was a chip off the old block when he calmly demanded
that the nightclub where the altercation had occurred, open its locked door. Management
willingly complied. No mention was ever made in the Belarus media of the malevolent
event, and the young Victor, still totally unflappable, married his girlfriend
a very short time later, the coach along with all of the people in the night club
later universally come to an agreement that Victor wasnt even in the nightclub
at the time the shootings occurred. This is as it should be in Belarus as the
alternative would have been very painful.
The fact that
Lukashenkos son would take such an interest in the national hockey team
is not as strange as it would seem at first glance. Lukashenko is still quite
an athlete himself. He considers himself a world class roller-skater.
rights activists protest, millions of poorer Belarusian voters seem to approve
of a president who thinks nothing of closing a busy boulevard to traffic so that
he can roller-skate along it. His handsome, mustachioed features appear nightly
on television, assuring his countrymen that he will provide." *
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 contests
geography. American balloonist Alan Fraenckel and British subject, John Stuart-Jervis
were drifting above the lovely irradiated countryside of Belarus when they were
approached by an unfriendly looking helicopter gunship, which without warning
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 a shrewd move
on his part.
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
countrys constitution in order to allow him to do anything he wants legally
(not that he cant and isnt 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 cowed population that for the most part views him as
the "devil incarnate" gave him their vote.
many questioned the legitimacy of that vote. The Economist probably came out the
strongest of all against the government of Alexander Lukashenko. They accused
the Belarus Government of going back on its promises, including equal access to
media, no harassment, a clean and honest count at the polls, no disqualification
of independent candidates just to change the election results, an event shot at
television time, without the state-controlled media keeping up its standard barrage
of name calling and personal attacks such as calling the members of opposition
parties, fascists, junkies, criminals, American stooges and homosexuals.
results from a sham election for a sham parliament in other words, business
pretty much as usual for poor Belarus. Its neighbors to the north and west are
Poland, Latvia and Lithuania countries heading for membership of the European
Union in the next few years, where power changes hands peacefully between sensible
politicians. Belarus plight makes even the heavily managed democracy in
its eastern neighbor, Russia, seem lively." *
When all was said and done, universally, those international
organizations that at times acted as ad hoc campaign and election watchers
such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council
of Europe and the European Parliament, determined that the election was going
to be skewed by illegality harassment and tainted ballots that they didnt
event bother to make their presence felt. The Economist had more to say on the
subject, "Mr. Lukashenko had predicted a turnout of 70%. The official results
showed only 60%. The incoherent official election reports during the evening of
polling day, and well-documented evidence of fraud, suggest that the real turnout
was probably a lot lower perhaps only 45%. If less than half the voters
turn out in Belarus, election is invalid."
"After the very opening,
the Council chair Mecheslav Grib reported that they entitled 5574 people to monitor
the ballot, thus covering over a third of country's polling stations. The observation
was carried out both on the day of voting and during the early ballot, as well.
Grib mentioned that the final statistics, published by the government, by far
exceeds the objective numbers. At least that's what the monitoring teams are saying
in unison. Despite the official allegations, the elections failed in every district
of such relatively big towns as Soligorsk, Novopolotsk, Rogochev, Polotsk, Orsha,
Mogilev, Bobruisk, Brest, Vitebsk, Minsk. In all these towns the boycott advocates
either already appealed against mass falsification or are still going to do that.
The overall attendance level, as calculated by independent observers, equals to
41%, varying from 35 to 38,5% in bigger towns. That quite differs from the official
60%, doesn't it?" *
We Believe That He Is A Good Man, Just
Very Misunderstood And Having A Bad Hair Day
However, the people are not all against him mostly due to the
fact that 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 economic ideas. Thus, under his benevolent leadership, the
country has no money that has any value and it has become 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. Those who enjoyed
the bland Communist lifestyle find Belarus absolutely invigorating.
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 doesnt 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. Putin, although one of the few of the worlds diplomats still on
speaking terms with the volatile leader, wants no part of Belarus, which makes
Russia look like a thriving country. Any union between the two would only exacerbate
Russias own desperate economic plight. However, there may be some value
to the Russians on the propaganda side to have someone, even someone totally nuts,
wanting back into the "The Evil Empire." Another one of the more democratic
countries, Moldova has also indicated some interest in joining such a Union, should
"The U.S. State Department paints a bleak picture of the
human rights situation in Belarus. In its annual report on human rights practices
in the nations of the world, the department concludes about Belarus in 1997; The
governments human rights record again worsened significantly as the resident
continued to lead Belarus back toward Soviet-era authoritarian policies.
The report says that nearly all power in Belarus rests in the hands of President
Alyaksandr Lukashenko. He controls the parliament and the judiciary, the KGB and
Ministry of Internal Affairs are answerable to Lukashenko. The Presidential Guard
created by Lukashenko has no judicial or legislative oversight and is used against
political enemies. The U.S. says the security forces committed numerous rights
abuses last years." *
spite of his dramatic and awkward shift back to Soviet Style Communism, Lukashenko
is not always satisfied with his romance with Russia. As exemplified by his statement
on his return from Ekatiringburg (the Urals, Russia) where he was closeted with
Russian officials for days discussing joint economic projects he said: "To
my mind the Russian system of power is good for nothing. You elect everybody,
everyone is independent, so its hardly possible they are going to be work
well." Russia wasnt too happy with the head of Belarus either, and
as quoted by Interfax News Agency, "Russian authorities never, neither in
the past nor in the present day time, allowed themselves similar statements concerning
Belarus, though Russian leaders possibly also do not appreciate everything in
how the system of power is organized in Belarus." *
one hand, Mr. Lukashenkos efforts appear comical. He criss-crosses the Russian
steppe peddling the imagined strengths of the Belarusian economy to the impoverished
Russian regions, once outlining his economic program with the phrase: "The
future belongs to large collective farms." No wonder both the International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank have recalled their Minsk representatives in
Lukashenko returned home from the Urals, he immediately began building other bridges.
He had already alienated his next door neighbor, Ukraine, by talking about the
forthcoming impeachment of Ukrainian chief, Leonid Kuchma, and how he was backed
by the financial magnates. The Ukrainian controlled press was said to be offended
by Lukashenkos meddling in Ukrainian politics. Eventually forsaking both
Russia and Ukraine, he had a delegation call on the Chinese Government. The Chinese
were pleased that Belarus, ever the chameleon, had done a complete turnabout and
began backing the Chinese position on Taiwan. The Chinese Defense Minister was
extremely happy with Belarus position and noted: "the successful relations
development between the two countries." Without any friends in the world
and a wound developing with Russia, Lukashenko thrashed about looking for friends
wherever he could find them, and China was more than willing to oblige.
effect, Lukashenko is saying, "the Russians I was negotiating with are a
bunch of clueless jerks." The plain English Russian reply would read, "Belarus
would be better off if it had someone else running the country." These words
have touched off a strong feeling that Putin would place his weight behind Lukashenkos
competition in the next Belarusian election, that is, if there ever is one.
award Lukashenko our Misguided Missile of the Century Trophy; 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 grabs the grenade.
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. However, when
the Belarus Bunny (currency) collapsed, prices on retail goods were frozen and
McDonalds' profits went up the chimney. The Government became unhappy that McDonalds
did not open more stores, in spite of the fact that people were paying the black
market equivalent of the worlds highest price, $4 for one without the trimmings,
while the hamburger chain was only allowed to charge a small fraction of that
amount. 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 Belarusian
rubles, in setting prices and duties. Now McDonalds will have to cope with the
same problems all Belarusian enterprises have." Wow!
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 no longer economically available to the normal Belarusian and conditions
only seem to be getting worse.