The government starts dealing with arrears

April 22, 2016 17:57

“Belneftehim” restricted supply of its subordinate enterprises to foreign enterprises-debtors. This decision was adopted at a meeting of the Board of the Group on 29 July 2011.

Reports say, Belarusian exporters’ receivables exceeded $ 4 billion, of which $ 2 billion accounted for arrears.

Comment

The main volume of foreign currency earnings, which stays unreasonably outside Belarus, is accountable for the Ministry of Industry enterprises and the concern “Belneftekhim”. All together they are responsible for about 70% of the Belarusian exports. The reasons behind the delayed return of foreign currency earnings are not only due to unattractive official exchange rate, but also to the possibility to make quick gains using financial institutions abroad. While struggling to increase the foreign currency earnings the authorities still adhere to the usual administrative methods. The intrigue is that unofficial repost say, the State Control Committee, the main oversight body of the country, informally does not support the current economic policy. SCC experts were both against the unwinding of extensive loans and income growth at the end of 2010, as well as against the current policy of multiple exchange rates. Without full and unconditional support of the SCC, any repressive attempts would be ineffective.

Accordingly, prognosis for the future is that the number of corruption schemes will increase, there will be little progress on the return of currency earnings (by large state-owned enterprises), and continuation of fights behind the scenes between different power groups for a way out of the crisis in the country.

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Yet Minsk has not decided on the "patriots' case" and is attempting to break new grounds in relations with the West. Meanwhile, Brussels is ready to lower cooperation levels with the Belarusian authorities in anticipation of new political prisoners to appear after the trial against former White Legion activists, irrelevant of the charges, either preparation for riots, or creation of illegal armed groups, or any other. Minsk is unlikely to cross the red line in bilateral relations with the West and new political prisoners are unlikely to appear in Belarus.

The harsh clampdown on protests and arrests this spring in Belarus are unlikely to lead to new moves by the European Union, however, the EU would closely monitor ‘some investigations’, including the ‘patriot’s case’ aka the ‘White Legion’ case.

According to human rights defenders, 17 people remain in custody, of which 16 are former members of the White Legion and one supporter of Statkevich-led the Belarusian National Committee, Sergei Kuntsevich. The law enforcement has been releasing former activists of the White Legion and members of the Patriot Club, most likely in order to mitigate criticism from Western capitals. Amid Minsk Dialogue expert conference with the participation of Belarusian and EU officials, the authorities released from custody head of the Bobruisk "Patriot" Club Nikolai Mikhalkov. In addition, the Belarusian leadership expects to ease some tension by demonstrating greater openness to a dialogue with civil society on human rights issues. For instance, for the first time the Belarusian authorities and human rights defenders held consultations on Belarus’ fifth periodic report to the UN Human Rights Committee.

The Belarusian leadership has attempted to mitigate the West’s attitude towards the criminal prosecution against former activists of the "White Legion" by adding charges of creating an ‘illegal armed formation’ to ‘preparing for mass riots’ charges.

Apparently, Minsk also gains from speculations about possible disagreements among the executives - supporters of stronger ties with Russia, and "pro-Western" reformists lead by Foreign Minister Makei. That said, the Presidential Administration and President Lukashenka have full control over the foreign policy agenda and the law enforcement.

Overall, Minsk is determined to develop relations with Western capitals. The Belarusian authorities are likely to take controversial actions, i.e. to demonstrate the desire for liberalization in some areas and occasionally tighten repressions against the opponents, however without creating new political prisoners.