Belarusian economic growth will depend on Russia
The optimistic version of the Belarus’ social economic development forecast assumes GDP growth at 3.2% against 1% growth in the basic version. The practice of using two forecasts has proved to be efficient and allowed to balance the budget amid a decrease in oil supplies in H1 2017. In 2018, the optimistic version of the forecast could be fulfilled, should the Russian economy allow.
The pessimistic scenario of economic development in 2017 has permitted to create an income reserve due to a higher oil price as compared with the projected (USD 35 per barrel). The reserve has helped to compensate for the shortage in oil supplies, and the containment of budget expenditures has had a favourable impact on the national currency and allowed to support key sectors of the economy. In H1 2017, Belarus’ GDP grew by 1% and the state budget was executed with a surplus of BYN 1.3 billion or 2.7% of GDP.
Largely, Belarus’ GDP has resumed growth due to the increase in exports of Belarusian goods and growing prices on foreign markets. In January – May 2017, export prices increased by 19.2% while supplies increased only by 3.1%. More than 45% of all exports were to Russia.
Growth in exports and supplies is one of the main conditions for GDP growth at 3.2% in 2018. Russia will remain the key market for Belarus. The Russian economy is recovering from stagnation in 2017, but in the coming years its growth rate will be limited to some 2%. Demand for Belarusian products will be limited, and an increase in supply would only be possible in the case of lower prices. If oil prices go up, the Russian economy would accelerate recovery, however, GDP growth rates in Belarus would be 0.5%-1% below that in Russia. To achieve 3.2% GDP growth in Belarus, the Russian economy should grow at 4%, which is unlikely.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.