Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

Foreign currency needed: Belarusian President becomes disenchanted with ice hockey arenas

Belsat / BelaPAN

Belarus will stop building sports and cultural facilities and will focus on the development of the industrial sector and on projects that are profitable in terms of foreign currency, Aliaksandr Lukashenka said Thursday while visiting Salihorsk-based potash company Belaruskali. 'We have built so many facilities that some of them are underused and do not generate as much useful effect as we expected,' state-run news agency BelTA qoutes him as saying.

According to Mr Lukashenka, a bigger focus should be made on the manufacturing industry and projects that will generate foreign currency revenues. 'Let us stop building social facilities and pay more attention to manufacturing and commercial projects. We need to invest more in production and in projects that will bring foreign currency,' the head of state said.

Mr Lukashenka also chided young people for leaving rural areas in search of better life and said that the construction of housing in Minsk was decreasing, with the government encouraging construction in areas that need workforce. According to the head of state, the country’s housing policy would change to build housing with the population’s own funds and provide government assistance only to large low-income families, military personnel and civil servants.

In 1994 there were only 4 large ice hockey arenas in Belarus. An avid fan of ice hockey, soccer and other sports, Mr Lukashenka personally ordered the construction of dozens of ice hockey and soccer arenas and other expensive sports facilities across Belarus. He dismissed all accusations of wasting public funds and repeatedly claimed that all sports complexes in the country were operating at a profit. In 2010 Minsk Arena, the biggest ice stadium in Eastern Europe, was put into service. Addressing to the Belarusians, Mr Lukashenka repeatedly stressed that constructing sporting venues were 'investment in the nation's health'. But now he sees no 'useful effect'.