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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Minsk Pledges to Attract Investment

MINSK — Belarus' prime minister on Friday pledged quick reforms to attract investment to the country, which has been accused by the West of clinging to Soviet economic practices.

The economy, which relies on oil refining, chemicals industry and machinery building, is currently ranked 110th in World Bank ratings gauging investment climate. Authorities have vowed quick action to propel the state into the top 30.

"We make no secret of our ambitious program for a comprehensive reform of our economy over three years," Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky told an investment forum.

"Statistics for economic development confirm that our plans to get into the top 30 countries in terms of investment climate are completely realistic."

Belarus, whose economy is almost totally controlled by the state, is also accused of violating human rights.

Authorities have in recent months repealed a "golden share" rule that allowed the government to control key enterprises, introduced tax breaks in small cities and simplified business registration procedures to attract investors.

Official statistics show that foreign direct investment into Belarus in the first quarter of this year totaled $1.3 billion, compared with $700 million in the same period last year.

Government statistics project that domestic and foreign investment will rise to $17 billion this year, from $12 billion last year.

The government has pledged to reduce the tax burden on businesses, introduce a single income tax rate of 12 percent and repeal restrictions on business practices.

"Our plan is to reduce the tax burden in the economy by 1.2 percent in 2009," Sidorsky said. "We believe reducing the tax burden is a good signal to investors."

Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov told the forum that 30 percent of state companies would have share issues in 2008.