Belarus and Chinese Exim Bank signed an agreement on a number of lending projects worth over $ 1 billion. In particular, they signed an agreement to provide consumer credit of USD 654 million to build a plant for the production of bleached sulphate cellulose at JSC “Svetlogorsk”.
A loan agreement for USD 340 million was also signed to finance the reconstruction of the road M-5/E271 Minsk-Gomel. Also, an agreement was concluded regarding the project “Electrification of Gomel-Zhlobin-Osipovichi and Zhlobin-Kalinkovichi” for USD $ 64 million (first stage).
Previously adopted plans and programs regarding modernization of enterprises and infrastructure needed to be implemented to an extent. In this regard, the Chinese loans are fairly accessible. However, besides positive aspects, there are negative. It increases the total credit debt and external debt of enterprises and the government. Loans need to be repaid, for instance, “Belenergo”, received USD 3 billion of Chinese loans in the past, now it has a very big problem repaying it. The dependency on Chinese loans and China in particular is increasing. In addition, Chinese loans mean that 80-90% of the money will return to Chinese companies. Also, experts often complain about the lack of transparency of transactions, as well as about high (European level) costs for Chinese quality of services.
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.