At out last Zoom meeting Neil was both the inductee and guest speaker. Members were treated to a very interesting presentation on a fascinating career in the auto manufacturing industry. From a trainee position at the Ford plant in Wellington, to hi-tech alloy wheel production at the Ford plant in Auckland through to senior positions in Belarus and China, Neils career was as he described it,  "learning by doing."
A  move, to manage the establishment of a joint venture  Ford/ Belarus vehicle manufacturing in Minsk formed the main part of Neil's presentation.
This career move starting in June 1996  and ending in August 1999 to a place most people would find difficult to locate accurately on a map, combined a distant  location, Chernobyl just 400km's away, sub zero winter temperatures, establishing a new manufacturing plant in what had been the Belarus Tractor Company factory,  and a set of political challenges unlike anything else he had dealt with.
Dealing with the President to sort out a currency exchange issue or assisting the Deputy PM sort out the Deputies daughters  refused USA visa are not the tasks company managers normally undertake. 

Neil spoke about  President Alexander Lukashenko, elected in 1994 and still in power after a series of very much questioned elections. After Lukashenko came to power it became clear that he would take actions to ensure he retained a very tight hold on power and that he would increase his control over parliament and institutions of government. While "Rule by Decree" made it simple in terms of establishment of the JV in Belarus it led to increasing instability in the economy and a rapid decline in relationships with the west. 
Having referred to himself as "Europe's  last Dictator", President Lukashenko is still very much in the news, and continues to have ramifications beyond the borders of Belarus.  
Inflation had already taken off by the time Neil started working in Belarus. In 1999 inflation in Belarus was running at 293%. Lukashenko blamed Russia and its central bank for most of these problems when Russia refused to trade the Belarussian rouble. Inflation skyrocketed under Lukashenko's policies and while 1 USD bought 12500 roubles in mid 1996 by 1999 one USD bought more than a million Belarussian Roubles.While the the business received revenue in Belarussian roubles all its imports were in hard currencies which was a huge problem.
10% of Neil's salary was paid in roubles and the pile on the desk is for one month. Belarussian tax was paid on that. He was thankful that the remainder was paid outside the country and not in Roubles. 
Neils career also included a period in China bust as time precluded any detail on that,  the club will look forward to a second instalment.