Negative GDP dynamics is likely to be due to oil supply reduction to 4 million tons in Q1 2017
According to the schedule of oil supply, in Q1 2017 Belarus will receive 4 million tons of oil instead of 4.5 million tons. Oil supply has been reduced due to the lack of payment for due debt for gas supply in 2016. Due to the Russian tax manoeuver in oil refining, oil export duties are likely to reduce further and reduce the margin of oil refining in Belarus. Trade disputes between Belarus and Russia are likely to grow in number; Belarus is likely to continue to look for alternative oil supplies; wages and employment in oil refining is likely to reduce, too. Meanwhile, budget expenditure may not be affected due to the significant difference between the target price for oil in the budget and the current world market price. In Q1 2016, Belarusian refineries processed 6 million tons of oil, which created a negative environment for a considerable reduction in the wholesale trade and production of petrochemicals in 2017. Taking into account the share of oil industry in Belarus’ GDP, in Q1 2017 Belarus is unlikely to achieve the 2016 output levels.
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.