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The reconstruction of the Gomel Oblast Children Clinical Hospital has produced outstanding results. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko made the relevant statement as he talked to Gomel residents on 10 August, BelTA has learned.

“A true palace. I cannot describe it otherwise. Cutting-edge technologies, a magnificent hospital,” said the Belarusian head of state.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that similar healthcare institutions had been built in every oblast. This hospital was initially supposed to be built outside the city's limits. However, Alexander Lukashenko gave instructions to reconstruct and expand the existing institution inside the oblast capital. “Now we can see a beautiful city block with its own garden here,” he said.

“We don't mind the expense because it is for our children. I am impressed by what they do here [by offering advanced healthcare services]. And it is not the country's top healthcare institution. It is an oblast capital one,” stressed the Belarusian leader.

Alexander Lukashenko went to see various wings of the hospital. He was made familiar with medical aid standards, talked to medical personnel and parents of little patients. The head of state was assured that the hospital has sufficient potential to provide quality services not only to Gomel residents but to the entire oblast. “Giving optimal service to all the kids is what matters. We will not pinch pennies from kids,” stressed the Belarusian leader.

The president gave instructions to expedite the resolution of a number of organizational issues and told the Gomel Oblast administration to keep an eye on them. The staffing of the healthcare institution with medics was mentioned. The healthcare institution needs to hire people taking into account the availability of modern equipment and technologies. Medical personnel need to live up to higher standards, too. “We have to be frugal with money and spend it where it is necessary – on kids,” noted the head of state.

Alexander Lukashenko also gave instructions to more promptly deal with several shortcomings regarding the hospital's physical infrastructure. The hospital still lacks some modern equipment. “It has to be a superb hospital and the equipment should be on par,” stated the head of state.

While talking to Gomel residents the head of state also drew attention to the need to offer high-quality medical services bearing in mind modern ecological challenges on top of the Chernobyl problems. “Particularly in Europe, in Russia, Ukraine, and so on. The god takes care of us thanks to the ‘dictatorship' and authoritarianism we are criticized for. But the environmental situation is getting worse. Not all kids are born without pathologies,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

The national report resulting from the stress tests of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is compliant with requirements of the European Union. The statement was made by Mark Foy, head of the group of European experts in charge of reviewing results of these stress tests, BelTA has learned.

Mark Foy said: “If we talk about the conclusion we've made, the group of experts concludes that Belarus' national report meets the European Union's requirements for stress tests on the whole. Let me remind you that 460 written questions were sent to Belarus [as part of the peer review process]. It is a large number of questions. They had to be answered within a very short period of time. Initially we requested answers only to questions submitted by the group of experts but the [Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department of the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry] Gosatomnadzor gave answers to all the questions. Some of them went beyond the topic of the stress tests.” The group of experts also stated that Gosatomnadzor had also given answers to verbal questions.

The experts confirmed that the design of the nuclear power plant Belarus is building is a design featuring an improved VVER-type reactor.

Recommendations were given as a result of the peer review process. The European experts believe it is important to consider and act on the recommendations. The recommendations are supposed to be added to the national plan on enhancing the safety of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. The national plan is supposed to be constantly renewed in the future.

According to Mark Foy, the recommendations determine the adequacy of safety borders for various accidents at the nuclear power plant and the installation of some auxiliary equipment. In particular, the experts recommend ensuring adequate safety borders for seismic events. The group of experts also noted that some safety aspects, particularly safety aspects of conditions beyond the design basis, need some corrections and improvements.

Apart from that, several positive practices inherent in the implementation of the Belarusian nuclear power plant project were noted. Passive safeguards were mentioned as well as the core catcher, measures to prevent and manage severe accidents at the nuclear power plant. The national report's analysis of various critical situations was mentioned positively as well as the operation of the education and training center with a full-scale simulator, the availability of a well-equipped fire station.

BelTA reported earlier that in 2016 Belarus voluntarily stress tested its nuclear power plant taking into account specifications of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). The national report on results of the stress tests was forwarded to the European Commission and made available to the general public online in 2017. The main conclusion is the Belarusian nuclear power plant is resilient to events of the kind that befell the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011. A group of 17 experts representing nuclear and radiation safety regulatory agencies visited Belarus in March 2018 upon ENSREG's authorization as part of the peer review process. The group also included representatives of the European Commission. Representatives of the IAEA, Russia, and Iran acted as observers.

The Belarusian nuclear power plant is being built using the Russian standard Generation III+ design AES-2006 near Ostrovets, Grodno Oblast. The first power-generating unit is scheduled for commissioning in 2019, with the second one to go online in 2020.

The visa waiver will strengthen friendly ties between the peoples of Belarus and China, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China to Belarus Cui Qiming said as he visited the Border Guard Service Institute of Belarus on 6 August, BelTA has learned.

The diplomat noted that the visa-free travel program will make travels between the two countries more convenient. “People in China have great interest in visiting Belarus. When the visa waiver becomes operational, it will be easier to do that. I would like to thank the Belarusian government and the border guard service for their support and their efforts to make travels to Belarus easier. After 10 August when the visa exemption enters into force, our peoples will be able to travel more often and learn more about each other. This will strengthen our all-weather friendship,” the ambassador said.

As BelTA reported earlier, the Belarusian-Chinese intergovernmental agreement on visa-free travel for holders of ordinary passports enters into force on 10 August. In line with the document, Belarusians will be able to stay in China visa free for up to 30 days during one trip, but not more than 90 days a year. The same rule will apply to Chinese citizens. If a person wants to stay in the country for more than 30 days or engage in educational and professional activities, he or she will need a special visa. Visa-free travel covers private trips, business trips, and tourist trips.

Belarusian agrarians have cropped over 3 million tonnes of grain, BelTA learnt from the Agriculture and Food Ministry.

As of 3 August, Belarus harvested 1.078 million hectares planted to cereal and leguminous crops, which is 50.4% of the sown area. The country harvested more than 3 million tonnes of grain already, with the average yield of 28.4 centners per hectare. This year the harvest campaign kicked off earlier than in 2017. As of 3 August 2017, Belarusian agrarians cropped 1.268 million tonnes of grain.

Brest Oblast harvested 77.9% of the area, Grodno Oblast – 67.9%. Minsk Oblast harvested 53.4% of its areas, Gomel Oblast - 43.8%. Vitebsk Oblast and Mogilev Oblast cropped 31% and 26.2% of the areas respectively.

It is necessary to put maximum effort into making sure that the harvest in the country is as large as possible. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko gave the relevant instructions as he was made familiar with the organization of the grain harvesting campaign in Minsk District on 1 August, BelTA has learned.

Alexander Lukashenko remarked that this year the grain yield in many countries is expected to be much lower due to hot weather. Grain crops have been devastated in Germany and Poland. The situation in France and Spain leaves much to be desired. This year's grain yield in Russia is expected to be 25% lower than last year's.

“Certainly, we've lost something, too, but not that much: the Lord has been merciful. This is why keep in mind that we will be in no rush to buy grain somewhere. Grain will be available on the market. But the prices will be high and you know what quality fodder we are going to buy. This is why maximum effort is needed to gather in every grain of what we've grown as well as corn,” said the president.

Talking to mass media, the head of state stressed that although weather had not been ideal, it had not damaged the fields completely. “There is no need to blame weather. It was not that bad. Certainly, I wish spring would have been less dry. Water was in short supply particularly in southern areas where grain was maturing,” stated Alexander Lukashenko. “We have to be fair. The first hay cutting was good thanks to torrential rains. The hay yield was the largest one on record.”

The president noted that weather conditions had not been difficult in all the regions of the country. Many areas will have great harvest if the grain is collected on time. “It will be the next topic for my travels. We have yet to gather in every grain in Mogilev, in the north and the center of Minsk Oblast, and particularly in Vitebsk Oblast,” he said.

According to preliminary estimates, this year's grain harvest in Belarus will be 0.5 million tonnes less than last year's. However, the country has 1.5 million tonnes of grain in storage, pointed out the head of state. “The amount is sufficient to take care of production of milk, meat, poultry, and other things. This is why there are no problems with feeding the nation,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.

On 1 August the head of state visited fields of 1st Minsk Poultry Farm where he was informed about progress of the grain harvesting campaign in the country and the region. According to Agriculture and Food Minister Leonid Zayats, over 800,000ha has been processed already or some 41% of the land under grain and leguminous crops. As much as 2.5 million tonnes of grain has been collected, with the yield at 28.8 centners per hectare.

Alexander Lukashenko was also interested in details concerning the development of agricultural enterprises in Minsk Oblast and Minsk District. The president was told that some strong agricultural enterprises lack lands to produce the necessary amount of combination fodder. The head of state gave instructions to consider transferring assets of struggling agricultural enterprises to the strong ones in order to improve performance of the former.

The refinancing rate may be reduced to 9-9.5% per annum by the end of 2019, BelTA learned from the report delivered by Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) Sergei Kalechits at a recent session of the board.

The government and the central bank are working hard on the guidelines for developing the national economy and the monetary management sphere in 2019. Next year's monetary management policy is expected to focus on curbing inflation down to 5% (December 2019 against December 2018) in terms of the consumer prices index.

The central bank will continue the policy of monetary targeting. The average broad money supply, which remains an intermediate reference point for the monetary management policy, is expected to grow by 9-12% (December 2019 against December 2018).

The interest rate policy will be geared towards hitting the right inflation target. The refinancing rate may be reduced to 9-9.5% per annum by the end of 2019 if the macroeconomic conditions match the forecast.

Raising the country's gold and foreign exchange reserves up to at least $7.1 billion (two months' worth of import of merchandise and services) will remain an important task.

“The success of the pursued policy, the price stability, financial and macroeconomic stability in the country will depend to a large degree on concerted actions of the central bank, the banking system, and the central government. Persistence and trust in the pursued policy are important,” the report reads.

Belarusian Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev have discussed trade and economic cooperation between Belarus and Russia, TASS has informed.

At the meeting in Saint Petersburg the premiers focused on trade and economic cooperation in power engineering, manufacturing industry, agriculture and other sectors. They also reviewed progress in implementing joint projects.

The press service of the Belarusian government told BelTA that the parties also discussed the schedule of meetings.

In January-May 2018 Belarus-Russia trade amounted to $14.48 billion, up by 17.7% over the same period a year earlier. Russia remains Belarus' main trading partner accounting for 39.3% of Belarus' exports in January-May 2018.

The meeting of the heads of government took place on the sidelines of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council that will open in Saint Petersburg on 27 July. The agenda of the meeting includes 19 issues. The meeting participants will discuss a project to set up a unified commodity transit system through the customs territory of the Eurasian Economic Union using technical means, distribution of import duties between the EAEU member states. The heads of government will review progress in the projects to implement the digital agenda in the EAEU, to develop the common gas market, to set up a body to investigate accidents and other issues.

Plans are in place to develop a code or charter of a civil servant in Belarus, Head of the Belarus President Administration Natalya Kochanova told the media in Minsk on 26 July, BelTA has learned.

“We have a law on civil service. Additions and amendments are made to it as planned. The law is in for revision this year. But today we were set the task to draw up a charter of a civil servant or a code of sorts. It makes sense to formalize all requirements in a single document,” Natalya Kochanova noted.

During the meeting held to consider a range of issues in the public service on 26 July, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko suggested toughening the requirements for civil servants before taking measures to raise the prestige of civil service. “If you came to me to ask to increase salaries of civil servants, do not even raise the issue. It was settled once and for all,” the president said.

The meeting participants agreed there was a need to review the law on public service and to draw up a kind of charter or code of a civil servant. Alexander Lukashenko stressed that this document should be absolutely fair and transparent and very specific so that any person, even not related to public service, will understand the essence of this legislation.

According to Natalya Kochanova, such a charter or a code should help people wishing to join the civil service understand how responsible this job is, what advantages it has and whether they are ready to make part of it.

During the meeting a decision was made to set up a working group (not consisting of civil servants) to consider the issues and introduce proposals.

The president said that all the documents under discussion should be ready within the coming months and come into effect at the start of 2019.

“The current tasks are addressed mostly by people who are now working in the civil service, national government bodies. Therefore, while discussing the prestige of the civil service and its preferences, first of all, it is crucial to consider the ways to toughen requirements to people working in government bodies today. The state service is akin to the military service, and people should understand that this means not just some privileges, but, first of all, service to the motherland and people,” Natalya Kochanova stressed.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 11:27

Belarus harvests 1 million tonnes of grain

Belarusian agrarians have cropped the first million tonnes of grain, BelTA learnt from the Agriculture and Food Ministry.

As of 25 July, Belarus harvested 367,800 hectares planted to cereal and leguminous crops, which is 17.2% of the sown area. The country harvested more than 1 million tonnes of grain already, with the average yield of 29.2 centners per hectare. This year the harvest campaign kicked off earlier than in 2017. As of 25 July 2017, Belarusian agrarians cropped 200,600 tonnes of grain.

Brest Oblast harvested 163,500 tonnes, or 48.6% of the area, Grodno Oblast – 94,400 hectares, or 28.7%. The harvest of Gomel Oblast reached 45,900 hectares, or 13.9%. Minsk Oblast cropped 56,300 hectares, or 11.5% of the area. Vitebsk Oblast and Mogilev Oblast harvested 6,390 hectares (1.94%) and 1,170 hectares (0.36%) respectively.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the initiative of the Russian side on 23 July, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian leader.

The heads of state discussed the bilateral agenda with an emphasis on the expansion of the trade and economic cooperation. The sides agreed to continue mutual efforts to preserve positive cooperation dynamics. Vladimir Putin invited Alexander Lukashenko to visit Russia in the near future. The possible meeting of the two leaders during which they are expected to discuss bilateral relations in detail may take place in Sochi.

The presidents paid special attention to the promotion of integration in the Eurasian Economic Union, implementation of previous agreements between the EAEU member states. They also discussed the preparations for the session of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Saint Petersburg on 27 July.

The heads of state also discussed the international agenda. They particularly focused on the relations between Russia and the USA, including the results of the recent talks of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki. The Russian leader informed Alexander Lukashenko about the details of the meeting.

The presidents paid special attention to armament control and the extension of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) between Russia and the USA which is due to expire in February 2021.