Industry drags Belarusian economy down
Decline in production has been the major trend in most industries in Belarus. The main factors responsible for such a decline include recession in Russia, which is the main export market for Belarusian enterprises. In the medium-term, the overall economic decline is very likely in Belarus due to the industry’s role in different economic sectors and the lack of opportunities for improvements.
According to the National Statistics Committee, in March 2015, industrial production index dropped by 10.3% to March 2014. With the exception of oil refining and electric power industry, industrial production has declined in Belarus.
Mechanical engineering has been hit the hardest. In Q1 2015, MTZ tractors production reduced by 35.4%, MAZ trucks and dump trucks – by half, and BelAZ dump truck production – by 33%. Machine tool industry, production of harvesting equipment and TV sets also has seen a significant decrease in production.
The general decline in production is associated with a significant decrease in investment demand in Russia. Truck market in Russia decreased by half in January – February 2015. The devaluation of the Russian rouble has significantly reduced financial capacities of Russian agricultural enterprises.
The situation is also unfavourable for other industries exporting to the Russian market. Prices on dairy products fell by one-third, leading to heavy losses for Belarusian exporters. Until March 2015, potash industry had somewhat reduced the negative trends in the industry. However, in March potash production fell by 11.5% to March 2014, due to the production record set in 2014.
In the past, the government had addressed crises in the industry with various state subsidies. In 2015, however, the state budget is depleted. The Russian market in 2015 is unlikely to recover, and other stable and large buyers of Belarusian trucks would not appear. In April – September 2015, despite the signed contract with China for potash supplies, Belarus’ chemical industry would not outperform 2014 and would not reverse the overall negative trend. Production growth in oil refining is insufficient to compensate for the drop in production in most other industries. The situation in the industry would have a direct impact on the wholesale and retail trade, transport and construction, resulting in a further economic slowdown in the medium term.
Belarus’ industry situation continues to deteriorate because of the recession on the main export market, i.e. Russia. In the absence of financial resources for the incentive-based measures, the industry will have a major negative impact on the economy.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.