EBRD plans further support for SMEs in Belarus
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is planning to implement five new projects in support of small and medium businesses in Belarus. Yet, the possibilities of bilateral cooperation between Belarus and the EBRD are limited because the Bank has refused to participate in public sector projects after the dissolution of the opposition protest in December 19, 2010. The implementation of political and economic reforms in Belarus is the key condition for increasing the Bank’s volume of operations in the country.
On 11 July, EBRD Director for Belarus, Moldova and the Caucasus Paul-Henri Forestier announced that the Bank is planning to implement five new projects under the program to support small and medium businesses in Belarus. This year projects in the field of information technologies, agriculture and services (network of shoe repair shops \"Yalina\") have already been implemented.
As of April 2012, the EBRD has invested 844.5 million euros while implementing 43 investment projects in the private sector of Belarus. The total value of projects, implemented with the support of the Bank, amounted to 1.175 billion euros. In 2011, the volume of EBRD investments in Belarus reached a record 194 million euros (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Number of projects and the volume of EBRD investments in Belarus in 2001-2011.
In 2012 the EBRD will continue to support private sector development of the Belarusian economy. The bank is currently involved in negotiations with regard to the provision of debt financing and participation in share capital of private companies.
In the second half of 2012 the Bank will prepare a new three-year country strategy for Belarus, which will be adopted by the Board of Directors of the Bank at the end of this year. The current strategy of the Bank was adopted on December 10, 2009. Originally, the document provided for the possibility of cooperating of the EBRD with the authorities of Belarus in the sphere of privatization of state assets.
However, after the dissolution of the opposition protest on December 19, 2010, the Bank \"calibrated\" the existing strategy and refused to cooperate with the Belarusian authorities (including participation in government projects and cooperation with the state-owned banks).
Carrying out political and economic reforms in Belarus would allow to return to the previous plans of bilateral cooperation, and thereby significantly increase the volume of operations of the Bank in the country.
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.