Belarus is set to modernise unprofitable factories even if investments do not payback
The Orsha tool factory modernisation requires some USD 65 million. Due to chronic unprofitability, the factory has no own resources for modernisation. Amid the lack of interest from foreign investors, the state is set to modernise the factory at own cost in order to ensure workplaces for workers in the region. Meanwhile, even after modernisation, the factory is unlikely to repay.
According to an estimate, modernisation of the Orsha Tool Plant would require some USD 65 million with a payback within 12.8 years. After modernisation, 70% of the enterprise's products would be sold on the Russian market, and 30% on the domestic market – in order to reduce imports currently worth some USD 30 million. The initial modernisation plan envisaged that USD 46 million would come from a foreign investor and the rest from the state.
The Orsha Tool Plant requires modernisation due to its financial performance. For several years the plant has been loss-making. In 2016, losses totalled BYN 1.3 million. In 2016, the plant employed 384 workers, which was 88 workers less than in 2015. The plant’s accounts have been arrested due to overdue accounts payable. Laid off workers face difficulties in finding new jobs due to the fact that almost one third of enterprises in the region are loss-making. Overall, Orsha region is the most loss-making in the Vitebsk Oblast.
The Orsha Tool Plant modernisation project is aiming to solve the most acute problem for the government – ensuring full employment in the regions. Most investors are put off the project due to its narrow market-orientation (only Russia and Belarus) and the long payback period. The investment climate in Belarus is unstable and project investment rules could change during the implementation process. In addition, in the long run, the BYN exchange rate could fluctuate due to the instability of currencies on the main prospective sales markets, which could significantly increase the payback period and make the entire project unprofitable. In the given circumstances, the state is likely to carry out the modernisation at own cost. In addition, due to automatization of production, the Orsha Plant is unlikely to offer a significant number of new jobs, and retraining would be required for employees. Moreover, such an approach could lead to an increase in the tax burden on successful enterprises and deteriorate their competitiveness.
Overall, the Belarusian state continues to fund modernisation of non-competitive enterprises. Such projects are unlikely to find investors abroad due to their low commercial appeal. The state would allocate budgetary funds for such modernisation and in the meanwhile is likely to step up the tax burden on successful enterprises or lower social obligations vis-à-vis the population.
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.