Government drafted a list of enterprises for privatization worth USD 2.5 billion
Without changing the fundamental approaches to privatization, its results in 2012 will not much differ from 2011. In 2012 there will be one or two major deals in favour of the Russian capital, and a couple of dozens in favour of domestic investors.
The Belarusian Government has drafted a list of companies worth at least $ 2.5 billion to be sold this year in order to fulfill its commitments vis-?-vis the ACF of the EurAsEC. In the near future the list will be submitted to Alexander Lukashenko. The Belarusian authorities plan to put on sale in 2012 state shares in 133 enterprises including 83, which were not sold in 2011. In 2013 22 companies will be put on sale: the list of 13 included in a three-year privatization plan was amended with nine new companies.
During an enlarged meeting of the collegium of the Ministry of Industry on 2 February Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Rumas criticized the work of the State Property Committee and other government agencies, both regarding the pace of privatization and its management by the governmental agencies. Rumas said, the results of the sales of state owned stakes in 2011 (state owned shares of 34 enterprises were sold) were “disappointing, and even disastrous”. Criticism of the Deputy Prime Minister is both legitimate and routine, designed for external consumption: Lukashenko has the full authority in terms of decision making regarding large property privatization.
Foreign investors will be put off by the image of the country’s authorities, poor business climate, as well as by significantly inflated prices of assets.
The companies not sold in 2011 will face similar fate in 2012 by the virtue of their general unattractiveness to investors and inflated prices for their assets. At the same time, under the requirement of compulsory privatization worth USD 2.5 billion, Russia will once again buy the best assets. Most likely, the pool of shares to be sold will include shares in oil refineries and petrochemicals, banks and telecommunication enterprises. Chances of a sale of shares of MAZ or Belaruskali seem low.
Since USD 2.5 billion is not enough to pay the debts while maintaining internal macroeconomic balance, and the new loans in 2012 are hardly probable, internal privatization will prevail. Large enterprises and chains will buy small business in the real and retail sectors. Either Russian or nomenclature capital will be behind these investors. In any case, with the redistribution of property internal tensions within the elites, in particular in the regions where the executive branch “fights” against the security forces, will increase.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.