Gas prices will reduce competitiveness of Belarusian nitrogen fertilizers
The difference in the price for natural gas in Ukraine and Belarus has decreased to 35%. In 2015, due to lower prices for natural gas, Grodno Azot increased exports of nitrogen fertilizers to Ukraine by 16 times in value terms; gas costs make more than 50% of the nitrogen fertilizers production cost. Due to the overall fall in prices on natural gas in Ukraine and in the world, the price of nitrogen fertilisers is likely to reduce and Belarusian producers may lose their positions on the neighbouring markets. Since natural gas prices for Belarus would remain at the level of 2015, fertilizers’ production costs will grow, proceeds will fall, and enterprises modernisation investment projects will be put off. In December 2015, Grodno Azot net profits reduced by more than BYR 200 billion. If such trends persist, Grodno Azot will no longer be among the 10 most profitable companies in Belarus.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.