Lukashenko Revokes Right to 'Golden Share'

MINSK -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday rescinded the 1990s concept of a "golden share," which the state could use to control private companies.

Lukashenko's press service said a presidential decree had done away with the practice, seen by Western investors as a hindrance to increased interest in the former Soviet state.

"Abandoning this practice will help create favorable conditions for direct foreign investment in the Belarussian economy's real sector, the achievement of 2008 growth forecasts, an improved international rating for Belarus and the defense of investors on the securities market," it said in a statement.

Lukashenko has called for improved relations with the West, including an influx of investment, since Belarus last year quarreled with Russia over energy.

Lukashenko has pursued economic policies of heavy state intervention in the economy, including substantial subsidies and benefits. But authorities have also called for increased borrowing on international markets and selective privatizations.

Yelena Rakova of the Institute of Privatization and Management discounted the effects of the "golden share" but welcomed its ending. "The very fact it existed, ... that at any time the state could start issuing orders to a company someone had bought, amounted to a scarecrow for all foreign investors," she said.