15 June 2020
Lukashenko urges further improvements in housing and utilities sector
POLOTSK, 12 June (BelTA) – We need to improve the housing and utilities sector further and eliminate the existing shortcomings, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a meeting to discuss the development of housing and utilities in Belarus in Polotsk, BelTA has learned
The president noted that the topic of the meeting is important as almost all people use housing and utility services every day. “How much people are satisfied with their quality and access directly affects the mood in the society. Consequently, it largely shapes the social and political environment and the level of trust in the current government," he said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that the performance of this sector was in focus of the national seminar to discuss the development of the housing and utilities sector in October 2017. The participants of the event agreed that the utilities sector should become a number one priority for senior officials in the regions. Later, appropriate decisions were laid down in Directive No.7.
“So far, as I have been informed, a lot has been done to make tariff setting more transparent, reduce the production costs, ensure cost recovery of almost all types of services, and improve reliability of utility networks and equipment. We should not forget that the main criterion of effectiveness of the housing and utilities sector performance is customer's assessment of the quality of relevant services. So long as we hear complaints about the performance of the sector, we should pay attention to it,” the Belarusian president stressed.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that once, when meeting with the head of the initiative group, he asked him to continue the collection of signatures, although the number of signatures was already enough. “I asked him to do this not because we lacked signatures. We get a huge amount of information from the local level about what's going on there. All of it is analyzed, and the main issues that are important for people are crystallized and are submitted to the president. Up to a quarter of all issues are about utilities and ways to improve them. Therefore, this meeting was scheduled a month ago in terms of monitoring the execution of my assignments. That was not yesterday's decision," the Belarusian leader explained.
He noted that during the pre-election period, any statement, action, steps of the president are carefully examined under the magnifying glass, in search for the hidden context. “There is no hidden agenda. We just need to address this issue, which is very important for our people. We will continue addressing these issues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
Returning to the topic of the meeting, the president said that the quality of housing and utilities services is often criticized. There are different people, including so-called chronic complainers, but there are few of them. “We should take a closer look at them as well, as they sometimes tell the truth,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“There are people who have no one to help. We need to help them. Where it is necessary, we must help people,” stressed the head of state.
In 2019, every fifth appeal to the President Administration concerned the work of the housing and utilities sector. This year, the trend remains the same. People most often complain about the quality of overhaul and current repairs, and Aleksandr Lukashenko admitted that sometimes these works are performed really badly.
People also complain about the improper maintenance of doorways. Here, the president said that sometimes residents themselves are to blame for the poor condition of doorways.
People are also dissatisfied with inadequate beautification of courtyards, villages, towns, and cities. This issue should be address not only with participation of authorities and with attraction of budget funds, but also with involvement of residents themselves.
The recently created client phone line 115 has also come under criticism. The head of state instructed to work out ways to improve its performance and make it actually useful.
“The problems of the sector have not been solved yet. After today's in-depth discussion, we should find solutions to all the existing issues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.
He asked to be informed what are the bottlenecks in the housing and utilities system, who and at which stage fail to ensure its efficient performance, and whether the state regulation of this sector should be improved. “I want to hear an objective analysis of the situation and concrete business proposals,” the head of state noted.
Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kukharev reported that the industry meets the main development targets. In particular, the cost of housing and utilities has been reduced. In 2019 it went done by 6% (while the target was 5%), which helped save Br77 million.
Since 2016, cross-subsidization has been decreased by almost Br200 million, which has lessened the burden on the budget and the real sector of the economy.
The increase in tariffs for utilities does not exceed $5 in equivalent. “The mechanism is transparent and understandable for citizens," the deputy prime minister said. The rate of coverage of housing and utility costs by the population is projected at 83.2% at the end of the year.
The country is implementing, in an accelerated mode, a program to replace the elevators whose standard service life has expired. “This year, the work will be completed. In the future, it will be carried out in a routine mode,” Vladimir Kukharev informed.
He also reported on the progress in the construction of iron removal stations. This year, 275 such stations will be commissioned, which will help meet the five-year target. “Thus, more than 200,000 people living mainly in rural areas will get access to quality drinking water,” the deputy prime minister noted.