Excise on fuel, alcohol and tobacco will remain important budget revenue in 2018
The Finance Ministry has published a draft amendment to the Tax Code for 2018, which provides for changes in excise rates for excisable goods. Businesses and business unions have failed in reintroducing the principle of VAP payment upon payment. Only alcohol producers would apply this rule. Taking into account the gradual increase in excises for motor fuel in 2018 by 10%, these costs, if introduced, would be transferred onto the consumer as a price increase. This is unlikely to have a significant impact on demand for fuel from legal entities and individuals. A further increase in excise duty on tobacco would raise domestic prices on cigarettes and gradually decrease tobacco consumption by the population. Alcohol is unlikely to increase in price due to the pressure from Russian producers and only a slight increase in excise duty. In January-May 2017, excise duty was responsible for BYN 928 million or 5.5% of budget revenues. Through a possible increase in excise duty in 2018, the state demonstrates the unwillingness to reduce its share in budget revenues.
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.