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Sometimes asked questions.
Last modified: November 26, 2002

There was an E-mail from Australia recently, asking some questions about Belarus. We thought that this information might be of interest to other visitors as well. Just one more reminder! The answers provided are just a private opinion.


Did not find the question you are looking for? No problems. Ask it, and I'll try to help to find the answer.

Q What is the current statistic about the number of tourists in Minsk?

A Sorry, we do not have statistics on the number of tourists in Minsk. You may try your luck at Belarus TACIS office web site, or search the President's web site for the links to the Ministry of Statistics and to the Ministry of Sports and Tourism.
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Q How many tourists visited Germany in 2001?

A Sorry, do not remeber having seen such figures. You may try your luck at the President's web site for the links to the Ministry of Statistics and to the Ministry of Sports and Tourism.
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Q How many hotel are there in Minsk currently?

A Right from the memory I can count more then 15 hotels in Minsk. Three of them are rated as 3 star hotels. From my own understanding three more hotels provide the same level of services but are not rated.
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Q Is there any transit hotel in Minsk (means that the hotel accept payment per hour, not per
night)?

A There are no transit hotels in Minsk to the best of my knowledge..
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Q Has the government privatize any tourism industry? Such as: hotel, road infrastructure, transportation company, and banking.

A Industry ownership.
1. All forms of ownership are present. Some of the hotels are owned by the Minsk city council, some of the hotels are owned by joint stock travel companies (BelTourist, former Belarusian branch of Intourist, is an example). I know only one hotel owned by a foreign company. It is a
small but comfortable German hotel Ursula.
Note: It looks as if hotels are quite independent in running their business even if they are owned by the state.
2. There are no private roads in Belarus. But there are some fees for using certain roads by foreigners and transit transport.
3. Railway transport and infrastructure are owned by the state. The airports and the main air carrier Belavia are owned by the state. We are not sure about privately owned air carriers, but if exist, they are small and have no regular flights, may be some charter flights. In country and public auto transportation do not make profits, so they are owned and donated by the state. Private sector in in-country passengers auto transportation is hardly noticeable. The number of Belarusians traveling abroad from the other hand, is constantly high, and this sector is dominated by small and medium private auto carriers.
4. Banking. Formally, there are already no state owned banks, but the state strictly controls this area. Frankly, this is a topic for a separate research, but if to try to describe it in several words, I'd have done it as follows:
4.1 Practically no personal banking services (in comparison to what is available elsewhere in the civilized world)
4.2 No banking privacy. The state uses banks to monitor financial activities of legal entities (Companies, organizations etc.) and physical entities (private persons).
4.3 No foreign banks. Though there are a couple of exceptions. I know one Latvian bank office hidden in a hotel suite, and one Russian bank branch in a modern looking building. And I know that some businesses use their services, but no idea what is the mechanic and what is the catch.
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Q Considering the radiation of Chernobyl is it dangerous to travel to Minsk?

A Minsk was lucky to avoid Chernobyl radiation cloud. This is clean area. As the environment is concerned as a whole, I would not compare Minsk to Bonn, but it is not worse then Frankfurt or London, and much better then Lisbon or Moscow for example.
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Q Considering the crime in Minsk,  is it dangerous to travel to Minsk?

A In general crime level is higher then it used to be, though still lower then in major European and American cities (I think so). As to practical terms, I'd say that the chances to get into real trouble (to be physically hurt for example) are practically negligible, but it is quite possible to loose ones possessions if they are not thoroughly cared for.
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Q About labor wages, what kind of expenses that must be included in wages? Should the company pay superannuation? Should the company be responsible for the medical expenses caused by Chernobyl radiation?

A Again, one more subject for a separate research, and again just general features. An employer is to pay only wages (or salaries. Still confused, what's the difference). All other benefits and bonuses are up to the agreement between the employer and an employee. The employee's taxes should be deducted by the employer and transferred to the tax authority.
Note: According to very business unfriendly, controversial and awkward taxation, the total amount of taxes paid by a company heavily depends on the labor costs, so employers try to minimize officially declared wages and invent other options to reward their employees. 
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Q How much is the average wages in there now, from unskilled people to highly skilled people (if possible in USD)?

A In the considerations below I assume the net amount an employee receives after deduction of all applicable taxes and fees. And once more, this is my personal assessment. 
1. Official minimal salary is defined by the state. It is 2500 BR per month for the time being (approximately $2.5). Has no practical meaning and is being used only for calculations.
2. Unskilled labor. I'd say that a cleaning lady would be happy to get $40-50 per month.
3. Office employees. For $100-150 per month you will find pretty looking secretaries and young office clerks.
4. Specialists. A Good Chief accountant. The key figure for any company (the more so in Belarus). Depending on the terms, on the size of the company, at $300 will be looking for other opportunities, can tolerate all the burdens of their uneasy life for $500, will be happy at $600 per month. A good computer specialist or programmer who still has to stay in the country will
do the job for $250 - 300 per month, but it would not prevent him from looking around for other options. If you really want to keep the guy, pay him $1000 or a bit more, and do not forget to provide training opportunities and to send him for whatever business trip abroad from time to time.
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Q What the corruption in business now? very bad? Also I heard about organize crime (mafia) involve in business industry. Is that true or not? How far is their influence?

A 1.Corruption in business. Exists, though its level is probably exaggerated. The hype in the western mass media about corruption in Russia (more politically motivated I think) does not apply to Belarus. Firstly, there are no natural resources in Belarus as one of the sources of
corruption. Secondly, the business environment in Belarus was (and unfortunately still is) so unfriendly in the course of the recent 5 to 6 years, that there are no big and medium sized private businesses any more as the other, probably not the source but the target of the large scale corruption. Thirdly, it should be admitted, that under our current president the circle of bureaucrats who can afford taking bribes was significantly narrowed. And fourthly, the need for influx of hard currency is so high, that all the governmental officials at all public appearances sound (well, I would not say that they are ready to pay to foreign investors for coming, but) very inviting and promising very favorable conditions and protection.
2. Organized crime in business. Not in Belarus as far as I know. The state with its law enforcing bodies closely watches that the businesses have nothing left for other potential beneficiaries. And even tough looking guys who seem to have controlled open markets just several years ago are selling goods now side by side with former engineers.
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Q Who does the mafia influence and in what way

A Primary target for street mafia (I'd better have called it racket) is small businesses and private entrepreneurs. I did not hear anything fancy about the ways it influences the victims. Racketeers propose to protect the target (They call it to provide the roof), or else...
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Q In your opinion, which is better for foreign investors, build their own business or joint venture? (considering the tax)

A Frankly, I don't know. The facts are: big names (Ford, Coca Cola, McDonalds) have their own enterprises and do not enter into Joint Ventures. Smaller investors, especially in the early 90th, were setting up joint ventures with local partners. But it seems not many of them survived, and I know some cases when joint ventures were transformed into representation offices.
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Q Do you have any web address about Belarus that is upgraded every time (better if you can give me government site)? Or is there any newspaper site in English?

A Certainly. Just check up our Info Guides.
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Q What is the current statistic about the number of tourists in Minsk?

A Sorry, we do not have statistics on the number of tourists in Minsk. You may try your luck at Belarus TACIS office web site, or search the President's web site for the links to the Ministry of Statistics and to the Ministry of Sports and Tourism.
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QWhat is Belarusian flag?

A


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Last modified: November 26, 2002