Basic foodstuffs prices rise
In Belarus, marginal cost prices for bread, dairy products and meat increased by 5%. The consumer price index for goods and services in July this year compared with December 2010 increased by 41%.
Alignment of the Belarusian prices for basic foodstuffs with the Russian is a must, believes the Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus Alexander Jacobson. In the neighboring Russia and Ukraine the prices for dairy and meat products are several times higher than in Belarus.
Growing food prices are inevitable to ensure the break-even of meat, dairy and bakery industries and to avoid shortage of these goods in the shops of Belarus. Enterprises work at a loss with restricted prices for end products and become unprofitable. As a result, the variety in the shops of Belarus is gradually becoming smaller. There is a shortage of some goods inter alia in Minsk (in the regions empty shelves in the shops are quite common). At the same time, the price disparity with the neighboring countries, stimulates grey exports, which is difficult to deal with (it is impossible to inspect virtually very suitcase), as well, mass export of goods to Russia, which is difficult to fight against given the non-existent borders. In the current economic circumstances the government should raise prices and tariffs while focusing on addressed assistance to the population. However there is neither political will nor administrative (labour) resources to implement such economic policy. Therefore, it is likely that the existing practice of gradual increases of prices will continue for the disadvantage of both, producers and consumers, (the latter affected by rising prices almost weekly).
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.