Growth in potash sales unlikely to reverse negative trend in Belarus’ foreign trade
According to the National Statistics Committee, despite an increase in exports by 16% as compared with January 2016, in January 2017, foreign trade deficit totalled USD 385.4 million. In January 2016, foreign trade deficit was USD 91.5 million and has since deteriorated due to the increase in the basic import prices on oil, petrochemicals, natural gas, and raw material for food production. Demand for foreign currency from importers on the domestic market is likely to increase, prices on petrochemical goods and foodstuffs on the domestic market are likely to increase, too. The state is likely to introduce additional restrictions on imports and the carriage of goods by different transport means is likely to increase. Potash production, one of the key Belarusian export commodities, increased in January 2017 by 75%; over 90% of produced potash was exported. If potash prices on the international potash market remain high, Belarus is likely to boost her currency earnings by USD 20-30 million per month. However, this is unlikely to help overcome foreign trade deficit in Belarus.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.