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 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.