Belarus"s economy in 2013: Forward to the Past
On February 21st forecast data about socio-economic development in 2013 was published.
The 2013 projected data demonstrates the return of the economy to the 2010-2011 standards. The economic model will not change – the government is only choosing sources of funding to support the status quo. The period until the next devaluation will last as long as the government is able to find the required amount to keep the situation as is.
The Economy Ministry Regulation No 1, dated January 4th, 2013 and published only in the second half of February states, that the Belarus’ current account balance in 2013 is projected with deficit minus USD 5.123 billion. In 2010, the balance was negative – minus USD 8.28 billion, in 2011 – minus USD 5.121 billion. In 2013 Belarus will benefit from gas supplies at discount prices – USD 2 billion, if compared with 2011. Excluding the possible continuation of the potential diesel fuel imports for the biodiesel production and potential benefits from the agreement on the duties’ distribution, the picture resembles that of 2010.
The improvements in 2012 were temporary and mainly due to additional financial benefits from Russian oil re-export schemes. Scheme’s suspension has triggered a chain reaction in the economy, which resulted in a drop in industrial production. The foreign trade balance was therefore negative and the financial economic outputs had deteriorated. Distorted perception of the real situation in the economy was due to savings of USD 2000 million to pay for the natural gas supply. The economic recovery was a misconception and some mistakes were repeated, which resulted in the devaluation in 2011.
Devaluation effect ceased to have impact in the second half of 2012. Wage growth has exceeded the nominal value compared with December 2010. The sale of Beltransgaz and oil re-export schemes increased the gold reserves to a relatively safe level (2 months worth of imports of goods and services). However, there were no significant structural changes. The main exports are petroleum products; Belarus’ dependence on its main market - the Russian Federation, has increased; privatization efforts have been halted, the modernization de facto looks like the distribution of funds with minimal economic impact; private business operate primarily to maximize their profits due to potential sudden change in the business conditions, including the assets’ nationalization.
Thus, the economic cycle in Belarus has looped. The period until the next devaluation will last as long as the government is able to find the required amount to keep the situation as is. The government considers sales of certain assets as a last resort option. The economic model will not change – the government is only choosing sources of funding to support the status quo.
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.