GDP growth behind the economic imbalances
On March 13th, 2013 Statistics Ministry reported about 4.4% GDP growth in January-February 2013.
Against the background of the industrial production slowdown in Belarus, the government continues insisting on the planned GDP growth. GDP growth is secured by changed calculation methodology and the usual means’ application. Artificial heating of the economy results in increased economic imbalances and a possible repetition of the 2011 economic crisis.
Industry generates over one-third of the Belarus’ economy added value. In the first two months in 2013 industrial production decreased by 0.4% compared with in the same period in 2012. Industry cannot help the government to achieve the planned GDP growth rate at 8.5% in 2013. Therefore GDP will be growing due to investment in fixed assets and equipment and due to warehouse stocks growth.
In January 2013, the warehouse stocks increased by BYR 5 trillion, enabling GDP growth: the unsold output was taken into account when calculating GDP by production. In 2012, the methodology for calculating net taxes on products was clarified, allowing for the calculation of industrial subsidies and excluding them from the subsidies on products, thereby increasing the GDP. In February 2013 investment in fixed assets increased significantly – both, due to increased procurement of equipment, construction and installation works, and due to the changes in the calculation methodology. Wholesale trade has gone up due to the resumed sales of potash fertilizers – regardless of the reduced contract price – only supplies’ volumes are calculated.
February socio-economic indicators show an economic slowdown. Freight traffic and retail sales have reduced, agriculture is facing certain problems. Against this background, the industrial modernization looks more like a race: who spends the allocated funds in the shortest possible time. Investment import increases, deteriorating Belarus’ payments balance. The reduced cost of loans will increase the demand for the cheap national currency and will heat the inflation.
Thus, the government chose to repeat its mistakes of 2009-2010. Instead of a balanced growth, GDP growth rates will be achieved by any means, leading to the inevitable result. GDP growth based on domestic demand requires significant investment. But the investment conditions in Belarus are not the most attractive. Therefore, in order to avoid the repetition of the 2011 crisis, the government should change the strategy.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.