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 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.