7th Investment Forum confirmed the foreign investment plan’s unenforceability
The Investment Forum, held in Minsk on November 15th – 16th did not result in a significant number of investment agreements. Investors are not interested in declarative statements and the situation with “Spartak” and “KOMMUNARKA” describes the private property situation in Belarus better than words.
On November 15th -16th, 2012 Minsk hosted 7th Belarusian Investment Forum.
There are supporters of foreign investments among the Belarusian officials. The National Agency for Investment and Development has been set up. Substantial benefits are provided to those who set business in small towns (decree No 6 of May 7th, 2012). Belarus has improved its rating in “Doingbusiness-2013”. Frameworks for the production activity in the Sino-Belarusian Industrial Park have been identified.
Some investment projects were presented during the Investment Forum. There were 600 Forum participants. However, only 12 agreements with insignificant amounts came as Forms’ results, which indicates business’ suspicion after “Spartak” and “KOMMUNARKA” were de facto nationalized. Even the attractive conditions in small towns have not made businesses excited about active investment in Belarusian economy.
Looking at a bigger picture, Belarus has not been successful in attracting investment: the 2012 plan, envisaging sales of state assets worth USD 2.5 billion, failed. Belarus’s attempts to sell MTS shares were unsuccessful. Establishment of a joint holding “Rosbelavto” is hampered for political reasons.
The reasons behind each failed ‘investment case’ vary, but in the end, Belarus’ very modest success with attracting investment is due to excessive control over commercial activity of enterprises, on the one hand, and leadership’s high expectations from investors, on the other hand. Indirect discussions between the President and the Prime Minister during the Forum demonstrated that in the end, it would be the President who would make the final investment decision regardless of the government’s position.
Thus, even if reduced to USD 2 billion, 2013 investment plan without high level support is yet another declaration of intent not supported by real projects. Potential large investors are well aware of peculiarities of investing in Belarus and prefer to invest in countries with a more predictable investment climate. Belarus therefore can only hope for investors willing to take risks, but they, as a rule, do not invest in long-term projects.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.