Belarus’ 2014 budget: full of aspirations
Budget revenues in 2014 were projected based on the actual revenues in 2013. The government counts on additional revenues from the population and private sector, as well as on changes in the international trade situation. Overvalued revenues from international trade may result in significant adjustments to the budget in mid-2014.
On December 12th, the 2014 draft budget was adopted in the first reading.
The government’s vision for 2014 is a deficit-free state budget, worth circa $11bln. Budget revenues in 2014 were projected based on the actual revenues in 2013. In 2014, budget revenues are projected at 19% higher than in 2013.
Analysing the draft budget helps to identify economic sectors on which the government is most reliant for increasing budget revenues in 2014. These include beefing up excise duties on alcohol and tobacco and excise tax on fuel. A fee for using private vehicles will be introduced with the target of raising $170m. In addition, a recycling fee for imported foreign cars will be introduced.
For 2014, projections for public property revenues were unchanged, implying that this economic sector would not see considerable performance improvements.
The main problem with the 2014 budget is that it has some overly ambitious estimates. For instance, the draft budget envisages sales of 6.6m tons of potash fertilizer at circa $306 per ton, which will be quite a feat.
The draft budget for 2014 also increases the burden on the population, which, coupled with restrictions on wage growth, might result in changes in consumption patterns. For reference, in 2013, budget revenue shortfalls were estimated circa $2bln and required substantial adjustments to the budget.
The government has once again filled the budget with hopes. If the Belarusian ruble is not devalued, the 2014 budget revenues will be downwardly revised a few times and by the year-end, a deficit is likely to be reported.
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.