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.
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.