External creditors believe Belarusians should pay more for utilities and public transport
Performance assessment of Belarus’ fulfillment of its obligations within the EurAsEC loan made by the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) jeopardizes the timely allotment of the following tranche from the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund (ACF). The ACF rules, applied to Belarus, force Belarus to increase housing and transportation tariffs in the near future.
On 24 January the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), fund manager of the Anti-Crisis Fund of the EurAsEC, issued a press release assessing cooperation with Belarus within the framework of crediting of the anti-crisisprogramme. At the same time the EDB refused to clarify the terms and conditions for the third installment of the loan for Belarus, referring to the fact that negotiations have just started.
Expert team of EDB mainly complained about the following: 1. as a result of 2011, one of the most important parameters concerning adjustment of the balance of payments and inhibition of inflation, namely, cost-cutting on state programmes, has not been met; 2. municipal services and transportation costs reimbursement rates have not been met.
According to provisional data, in 2011, funding of state programmes made up 4.5% of the GDP, which is by 0.5 % higher than the benchmark provided by the coordinated anti-crisis programme. The level of cost recovery for utilities is significantly below the stipulated 30% and for transport - 70%, envisaged by the stabilization programme. EDB experts in cooperation with the Government drafted a new agreement (a letter of intent), which takes into account the results of joint work in 2011, and amends the anti-crisis programme.
The Belarusian government hopes that the issue of the following installment of the ACF of the EurAsEC will be reviewed in February. However, it is likely that the ACF will delay the payment of USD 440 million, demanding the Government to increase housing and transportation tariffs.
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.