Belarusian authorities plan to re-industrialise economy to support employment
The Belarusian authorities are being prompted towards re-industrialising the economy and preserving a large public sector at the expense of Chinese loans. Apparently, the industrial lobby took advantage of the authorities’ fear of social instability amid growing unemployment. If plans for a large-scale industrial modernisation materialise, the authorities will abandon structural economic reforms.
The state is planning to invest in MAZ and BATE USD 500 million each and USD 645 million in Gomselmash.
In all probability, the industrial lobby has convinced the president to accept their vision of how to ensure employment for unoccupied human resources. Following protests against the decree on social dependants in February-March 2017, the Belarusian leadership was vigorously seeking ways to reduce the unemployment rate, which could, in the authorities' opinion, relax tension in society and prevent open discontent with socio-economic policies. Nevertheless, according to Belstat, in April 2017, layoffs outnumbered hires (53,815 people vs. 46,206), regardless of the mobilisation of the entire state apparatus to ensure maximum employment.
That said, after industrial modernisation derailed in Belarus in 2012-2014, the authorities revised their approaches and abandoned massive investment in state enterprises at the expense of the state. Most likely, some emerging signs of economic recovery in Q1 2017 (export grew by 20.7%, inflation at 1.7%) have influenced the authorities’ expectations and prompted them to resume large investments in state enterprises .
Apparently, the Belarusian leadership has decided to re-industrialize the economy and retain a large public sector in order to control the labour movement. In addition to large-scale investments in the existing production, the authorities are creating or planning to create new large-scale productions, most likely, with Chinese loans. For instance, BelJI plant, which would assemble Chinese Geely cars, has almost completed construction; its estimated production capacity is some 60,000 cars per year. In addition, Amkodor Holding is planning to build a new plant in Belarus to produce automotive and municipal equipment with USD 300-350 million investment.
Overall, the authorities are ready to disregard the growth in warehouse stocks at industrial enterprises for the second month in a row, the non-competitiveness of the Belarusian industry and the losses of industrial giants (MAZ, MTZ, etc.) over the past few years, in order to preserve social stability and high employment.
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.