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).
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.