Attempt to meet 2015 forecast could undermine relative stability on Belarusian currency market
In H1 2015, the Belarusian economy was far behind the targets planned for 2015. The economy is lagging behind mainly due to the devaluation of the national currencies in Russia and Belarus, as well as sanctions imposed against Russia. Economic tasks set by Lukashenka may only be achieved by switching on the printing press, which, in the short term, may lead to devastating consequences for the domestic currency market.
Presidential decree No 550 of December 1st, 2014 envisaged GDP growth in 2015 at 0.2% -0.7%, labour productivity at 1.5% - 2% and real incomes at 1.1% - 1.5%. However, in H1 2015 GDP fell by 3.3%, labour productivity decreased by 1.5% and real incomes of the population decreased by 5%. In addition, exports of goods and services have not reached the anticipated volumes, while the balance of goods and services has demonstrated better values than expected.
Belarus is currently unable to meet the projected socio-economic development parameters for 2015 due to several factors. Firstly, the forecast has been approved before the devaluation and has not envisaged changes in macroeconomic indicators following the devaluation of the national currency. In addition, the forecast had overstated the average cost of oil, which had a negative impact on international trade data. Secondly, the forecast has not take into account the negative effects of sanctions on the Russian economy. And finally, the forecast for diversification of exports of Belarusian products has been overestimated.
In H2 2015 GDP would somewhat improve due to the low comparative base of H1, however, not enough to meet the forecast. Current oil prices deteriorate the situation and enhance the negative impact on demand from Russian companies for Belarusian products.
In the given circumstances, the forecast may only be achieved if the government switches on the printing press to pump the economy as it did in 2010. Higher wages would then lead to a surge in consumption and growth of indices in wholesale and retail trade. Demand for domestic products would increase adding a few percentage points to industrial production. Goods unsold on the market would be sent away to warehouses.
However, in the shot-term, such pumping of the economy with money would lead to a sharp elevation of pressure on the currency market, growth of imports, reduction of exports due to rising costs, and the need to devalue the Belarusian rouble. In order to avoid potential catastrophic consequences the government may choose moderate stimulation of the economy, yet in that case, it would be unable to meet the projected forecast and would blame it on the negative processes in the global economy.
In 2015, Belarus would be unable to meet the economic growth forecast without pumping money into the economy. The government may choose moderate stimulation of the economy, yet nevertheless would be unable to meet the projected forecast.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.