Export requires new mechanisms to support competitiveness

April 22, 2016 18:06

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Guryanov said that the attenuation of the Br exchange rate has been exhausted for the Belarusian exporters. “To increase sales in foreign markets they have to rely on other mechanisms”.

Mr. Guryanov noted 2011 was rather successful for Belarus in terms of foreign trade balance. The foreign trade balance in goods and services in 2011 was negative amounting to USD 1.64 billion, while projection was minus USD 5.7 billion. The Belarusian exports compared to 2010 increased by 56.1%. Exports increased by USD 46.6 billion. However, “the effect of the devaluation of 2011 has been exhausted. Stability in the foreign exchange market should make exporters to rely on other factors”, Mr. Guryanov said. “Other” factors in his opinion include: increasing of export volumes, as well as supply of new products. However, his words sound rather like a mantra as the Belarusian export increasingly focuses on raw materials (potassium and petroleum products account for over one half of total exports), the country is losing its traditional markets and the proportion of new and innovative products in the overall production is decreasing. Belarusian companies are increasingly losing to their Russian and Ukrainian rivals.

Mr. Guryanov believes that by the end of 2012 Belarus could really come to a positive trade balance of USD 1.5 billion. In his view, this could be achieved due to the lack of excessive demand for passenger cars (main trend of the first half of 2011), reduced gas prices and better conditions of Russian oil supply, as compared with 2011. Whether these expectations and assumptions are backed up by real calculations, is a serious question.

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Belarusian authorities attempt to depoliticise education system
August 21, 2017 10:55
Image: TUT.BY

The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.

In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.

The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.

In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.

Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.