Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Some 1,500 market vendors gather in Minsk to discuss tough new rules

Zakhar Shcharbakow, BelaPAN

Some 1,500 market vendors gathered at the conference hall of Hotel Belarus in Minsk on Monday for a forum that focused on the ban on the sale of goods without accompanying documents that took effect on January 1.

Entrepreneurs renting stalls at markets and shopping centers in more than 20 cities traveled to the Belarusian capital for the forum, which had been organized by a small business association called Perspektyva.

The government was represented by Andrey Myashkow, deputy head of the trade ministry's Department for the Organization of Trade and Services, and Valery Khomchanka, an advisor at the economy ministry's Enterprise Department.

While opening the event, Perspektyva leader Anatol Shumchanka accused the government of waging a war on market vendors since the early 2000s. At the same time, he said, authorities and market vendors managed to find compromise solutions at times.

Market vendors do not oppose the need for their goods to be accompanied by certificates of compliance and other documents, said Mr. Shumchanka. «We oppose a situation where laws concerning our activity are adopted by our direct rivals and our opinion is not heard. A situation where decisions for you are made by your rival who desperately wants you gone is called lobbying,» he said.

Mikhail Pastukhow, a former judge of the Constitutional Court, said that Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Edict No. 222, which banned market vendors from selling goods without accompanying documents, «illegally restricted» citizens' rights.

Mr. Shumchanka suggested that market vendors should ask the House of Representatives to consider a draft law creating favorable conditions for their activity by gathering 50,000 signatures in support of such a bill.

Explaining their opposition to the ban, market vendors who buy their goods in Russia say that accompanying documents are virtually impossible to obtain from suppliers.

Tens of thousands vendors have kept their stalls shut since the beginning of the year as they fear punishment for failure to comply with the new rules.