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.
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.