Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

Lukashenka tones down exit duty proposal


Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Saturday toned down his proposal to introduce a $100 exit duty on Belarusians traveling abroad for shopping.

"I’m not calling for banning our citizens from traveling abroad, I am concerned that up to $3 billion in foreign cash is taken out of the country every year," the government’s news agency BelTA quoted him as saying during a visit to the Dazhynki end-of-harvest festival in Zhlobin, Homyel region.

Referring to his proposal, Mr. Lukashenka said that he had "blurted it probably to my own detriment." "I’m not afraid of that though," he added.

He said that his proposal was just an "example" of what could be done to stop cross-border shopping. According to Mr. Lukashenka, the yearly amount of foreign cash taken out of the country by cross-border shoppers is estimated at $2 billion. "If it remained in the country, we would live in a completely different way," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka urged the public to stop buying foreign-made clothing and turn to Belarusian brands. "If you are a big lover of German clothing, for instance, make do without it a bit in this situation. No, no one wants to do that. He has bought dollars or euros here, at a relatively low exchange rate, and taken out this foreign cash," he was quoted as saying.

He said that Belarusian shoppers supported the European Union economy. "That’s why I say that we need to look for some tools like other states do. Ok, we will not charge you $100, but if you bring in clothing, you will pay a duty like in other countries. This is normal, civilized," he said, adding that the government was considering such a measure.

Mr. Lukashenka said that Belarusian manufacturers should make high-quality goods to stop people from consumer imports. "And these measures will be temporary, secondary, if they are introduced at all," he said.

"The people has been stirred a bit, has scolded Lukashenka, that’s also good, I should be kept in good shape. But they need to calm down. We have never done and will never do things worse for people. We will weigh the reasons and choose the best move, so that the state also benefits. And the state is the people in general," Mr. Lukashenka said.

On September 6, Mr. Lukashenka revealed that he had directed long ago that measures be taken "up to and including requiring people to pay an exit duty if they go abroad, no matter for what purpose."

"This will be as follows: we serve you at the border and you should pay $100 per head and may go abroad," the Belarusian leader said. "In this case he will come to our store and buy our refrigerator and will not carry garbage from the European Union, made no one knows where. And they [authorities abroad] will rub their hands with glee because we have taken $3 billion there and their sales and production are on the rise, while we are flouncing about here like fools."