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 could to step up the opposition representation in local councils, should party members demonstrate potency. The Belarusian leadership is unlikely to have the resources to ensure 100 percent pro-government candidates in the local elections. The authorities have exhausted the grassroot support and have no funds to pay for the loyalty.
The Belarusian Central Election Commission has proposed to hold the elections to the local Councils of Deputies on February 18th, 2018.
The president has repeatedly emphasised the importance of the local councils in the power system and the state machine always tried to ensure the necessary local election results. Candidates have been decreasing in number with each elections and the authorities dealt with that by reducing the deputy corps. That said, during the rule of President Lukashenka, his electoral base has changed substantially. Over the past decade, most Belarusians have moved to cities and lost their local roots. The rural population is ready to support the president, but rural residents are constantly decreasing in number.
The Belarusian leadership is likely to permit broad participation in the election campaign and an increase in alternative representatives in the local councils. However, the opposition would have to boost its activity, so as so far it has been passive in defending its interests. In addition, the authorities, while determining the date for the local elections, have taken into account the fact that the opposition is usually the least active in the winter time.
Overall, both, the opposition and the local authorities have exhausted their grassroot support, however new local leaders may still come on political stage, although the party opposition has not yet shown sufficient aspirations.