Belarus struggles with foreign trade deficit
According to the National Statistics Committee, in January – September 2014, the foreign trade in goods deficit was USD 1 931 million, and USD 354.8 million in September alone.
Russia’s embargo on food supplies form a number of countries has created favourable conditions for Belarusian food products to be exported. However, due to devaluation of the Russian rouble, exports growth plans in Belarus have needed to be readjusted. In addition, exports of Belarusian engineering products will continue to drop. The state will have to increase loan support for export enterprises, export prices will drop when exporting to the Russian market, and imports of consumer goods from Russia to Belarus will increase due to lower prices. The National Banks’ gradual devaluation policy makes improvements to the foreign trade deficit in 2014 unattainable, even within one month.
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.