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.
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.