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.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.