Социальные сети

Maksim Salahub: Sorainen, Belarus

Population: 9.7mln, Minsk has 1.9mln, Gomel is 0.4mln. GDP growth is 8.1% in 2007. Foreign trade balance is deeply negative, which is a problem. Standard&Poor's ratings are mostly B, similiar to Russia and Ukraine. Foreign investments are permanently increasing. Germany is the most serious investor. Latvia has 3% investment market share. Real estate is booming, banking and brewing industry are the main investment areas.

Most common stereotypes are not valid. In 1998 the new Civil Code substituted the Soviet Code. It regulates the operations and establishement of commerce companies. In 2001, Investments Code was adopted. Investors are guaranteed with right of private property, equality of rights, stability of investors' rights, protection against nationalization, free dispose of property and results of investments. The profit can be freely taken abroad upon payment of 15% of income tax. There is no double taxation with Estonia.

Investments Code provide additional tools to stimulate investors' activity. Investment agreement may be conducted with Republic of Belarus directly to provide additional garantees about taxes, custom duties expatriation of profits etc. Doesn't happen too often but exists. Consessions for investment activity regarding natural resourses like forest, water etc which belong to government. Also pretty rare. Certain preferences concerning price formation, salaries etc can be granted to foreign investors. There are some price and salaries regulations for the local companies, which sometimes are not easy to follow (director can not get more than 5 times higher salary comparing to the lawest salary in the company etc). Belarus joined several internation convensions that can be used as a last resort for investors (you can claim foreign property of Belarus in other countries if things go wrong, theoretically). Corruption is not a serious issue in Belarus, comparing to Russia or Ukrain. And bribes are some 20USD, if any.

There are some problems though. Golden share: govenrment can take over managment of any company in which it has or used to have any shares. Not used very often, can be used only for the companies that has deep financial problems. High bureaucracy, especially in taxation, leads to higher administrative expenses. But since 2005 burden is reduced, taxation system is simplified. Company registration used to take 3 monthes, now it's only some 20 days. Nationalization doesn't happen to often but it's a risk. Privatization is accelerating, which is good.

Public market closed after Russian crisis in 1998, shares can not be publically traded. National currency is ruble, which used to be tied with Russian ruble, after crisis switched to USD. Public market is due to open, which may provide a lot of attractive investment possibilites.

It's not easy to control joined ventures with Belarussian management. But you can put foreign citizen as a director. Director has to report to the meeting of shareholders. Supervisory board can be established, useful for the company with large number of shareholders (10 or more). Director can be limited by type and price of transaction. Indepent legal and financial audit can be conducted, preferably by foreing auditors like KPMG.

Main mistakes - investors rely on previous experience. Inaccuracy can cause long delays due to bureaucracy. Belarussian business traditions are tough and agressive. People sometimes are not very polite, especially government officials. In Bealrus you should put everything on paper. In Scandinavia people rely on common sense and verbal agreements - this is also common for Belarus, but not for old-school businessmen. You can't rely on government promises. It's good to have a supervisor in your business among local authorities but it doesn't solve all your problems automatically. Don't wait until problems grow too large, solve them earlier.

People are usually hired with a contract. Employment system in Belarus is quite protective for employer. You can fire people for violations, but the most efficient way of terminating of the agreement is mutual agreement of the parties. Usual compensation is 2-3 month salaries, the longer is notification period, the lower is compensation. Income tax is progressive - 9% to 30%, there is plan to switch to plain tax, some 13%. Social tax is 30%. Profit tax is 24%, tax system is quite complicated, some small unusal taxes appear here and there.

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