Government seeks who to blame for the failure to meet GDP growth forecast
On June 14th, the government met to discuss socio-economic development performance in January-April 2013.
GDP growth pace in January-May 2013 slowed down to 101.1%, implying there are no chances to meet the GDP growth forecast for 2013. The negative economic situation forces government to consider who to blame for the economic failure. Under these circumstances, the probability of making controversial decisions which cannot improve the situation in the economy and make it worse, is increasing.
According to the National Statistics Committee, in January-May, GDP growth slowed down to 101.1% from 102.5% in January-April 2013. Industry is the main source of troubles in the Belarusian economy. In January – May 2013 production dropped by 3.5%. In May, the overall negative economic trends were complemented by a dramatic deterioration in the economic situation at Belaruskali – industry’s main driver in 2013. Belarus’ exports situation is not improving. As a result, the GDP growth forecast for 2013 will not be implemented.
Since the forecast will not be implemented, the government starts looking for a scapegoat. Industry explains the drop in production by external factors and expensive loans, the National Bank cannot lower the discount rate rapidly due to the potential increased demand for the national currency, which is undesirable because of the economy’s limited crediting opportunities. The Economy Ministry complains about poor diversification of Belarusian exports and proposes to set export plans using natural indicators. Instead of improving coordination among all ministries and agencies, the government starts looking who to blame for the economic failures by the year-end.
The situation affects coherence of managerial decision making. To unload warehouses, enterprises require greater independence to adjust their industrial production to meet the demand in different markets. The government ignores enterprises’ needs and requests them to reduce production stocks while increasing production. The National Bank is under pressure to lower loans’ interest rates, but that will increase the risks for the foreign exchange market and will reduce the growth rate for individual and business deposits. As a result, inflation will increase and gold reserves will drop. Simultaneously, everyone understands the importance of maintaining the international reserves at a certain level and is bound by the need to curb inflation.
The best option would be to abandon the GDP growth plan in favour of the balanced economic development. However, the president demands the forecast’s fulfillment, which may increase the negative trends in the economy.
Thus, the government is not focusing on mitigating the negative trends in the economy following downward trends in the foreign markets, but seeks who to blame and punish for the inevitable economic failures. Such attitudes strengthen crisis trends that may result in devaluation, as in 2009 and 2011.
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.