Cement industry is in need of diversification following its modernisation
On August 16 president Lukashenko demanded that new factories for manufacturing of reinforced concrete construction and imitation stone founded on the basis of the Belarusian cement plant launch production by November 2014.
Modernisation of cement industry which utilised about USD 1.2 bn, has not met export expectations of the government. Because of falling demand and managerial errors in the course of modernisation the plans to boost export had to be curtailed in terms of the volume of goods by more than three times. In such a situation an attempt is being made to launch production of new export goods.
Belarusian authorities try to partly offset the decline in revenues from traditional export items by way of organising new export production. Two such projects were presented to president Lukashenko on August 16 during his visit to ‘Kritshevtsementoshifer’, a subsidiary of ‘Kritshevtsement’ JSC. We are speaking about the launch of manufacturing of reinforced concrete construction and imitation stone founded on the basis of the Belarusian cement factory (which cost USD 50 mln and USD 38 mln, respectively). The president approved the projects mentioning that they are going to ‘be of great help to export’ under the condition when cement sale ‘has slowed down’.
Yet following the results of recent modernisation of cement industry which cost some USD 1.2 bn (whereas USD 530 mln – the tied loan of the Exim Bank of China), the production volume of cement in Belarus was meant to double. It should have reached 10 mln tons in 2013, of which 5 mln tons were meant for export. Export revenues on this item were planned to reach USD 400 mln in 2013. Yet because of the drop in foreign and domestic demand observed since the second half of 2012 the plans had to be modified. The volume of production will not exceed 6.1 mln tons this year, the volume of export will not exceed 1.5 mln tons.
Nevertheless, problems of the industry are related not only to the deterioration of the market conditions but managerial errors, too, committed while choosing the mode of modernisation. The intention of the government to simultaneously improve the investment statistics and ‘save money’ on technologies failed altogether: Chinese equipment purchased with the Chinese loan showed its poor quality as early as at the stage of assembly and fettling. And this is one of the reasons behind the postponement of the planned yield of 10 mln tons of cement until 2015.
And yet another important goal of modernisation has not been reached – improvement of energy efficiency of the industry by way of decreasing volumes of consumption of the Russian gas (Chinese technologies were intended to replace it by coal). As a confirmation, the head of the Russian holding ‘Eurocement Group’ Mikhail Skorokhod paid a visit to the Belarusian cement factory and ‘Kritshevtsementoshifer’ on August 14. The governor of the Mogilev region Petr Rudnik who accompanied the businessman voiced his proposal to establish partnership in terms of operation of new capacities to decrease the prime cost of production and use alternative types of fuel. The head of the holding promised to help Belarusian colleagues. The conditions of this assistance have not been disclosed.
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.