The Economy - Privatization
A conservative parliament and a lack of political will have slowed privatization in Belarus in comparison with other former Soviet republics. Although the Law on Privatization of State Property was approved in January 1993, the Supreme Soviet did not approve the 1993 State Program of Privatization and the Law on Privatization Checks (or vouchers) until that summer. By the end of the year, less than 2 percent of all republic assets slated for privatization had actually been transferred to the private sector. To speed the pace of privatization, the State Committee on Privatization was converted into a ministry with an expanded staff in March 1994.
The State Program of Privatization calls for two-thirds of state enterprises to be privatized during 1993-2000. Exemptions include defense-related industries, monopolies (such as utilities), and specialized enterprises working with gems and precious metals. Enterprises of strategic importance can be privatized only with the approval of the Cabinet of Ministers, and agricultural monopolies can be privatized only with the approval of the Anti-Monopoly Committee.
According to the privatization law, 50 percent of each entity slated for privatization will be distributed to the populace via vouchers, and 50 percent will be sold for cash; the prices of the entities will be adjusted for inflation. (There are separate vouchers for housing and property.) Every citizen was eligible to apply for privatization vouchers and open a voucher account at the Savings Bank (Sbyerbank) as of April 1, 1994. The entitlement is twenty property vouchers per citizen plus one voucher for each year worked, with additional allocations for orphans, the disabled, and war veterans. All vouchers are scheduled to be distributed by January 1, 1996.
In 1995 the practice was quite different from the theory. Privatization of large firms, delayed by the government under various pretexts, had not even started. (Much resistance to privatization also came from factory managers and politicians, particularly at the local level.) At best, some 10 percent of state enterprises had been privatized. Privatization plans for 1995 call for another 500 state-owned enterprises (4 percent of the total) to be privatized.
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