Normalisation of settlements in agriculture will reduce bad debts on wages in Belarus
As of September 1st, circa 68,000 people did not get paid in a timely manner. In July, the situation with wage arrears somewhat improved after agricultural enterprises received funds from the state budget. Without financial reform in agriculture, wage arrears will remain and will require further funding from the state budget.
The National Statistics Committee reported that as of September 1st, 2015, wage arrears in Belarus totalled BYR 276 billion or 1.4% of the July payroll. 432 organisations had wage arrears to their employees and 68,000 workers were not paid on time. Of the total wage arrears, 72% was in agriculture. The bulk of the debt had accumulated in Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
In July, the volume of overdue wages decreased by BYR 55 billion. The decrease was mainly due to agriculture. The state has allocated substantial funds in support for the harvesting campaign, which has somewhat reduced wage arrears and allowed to repay debts to contractors. As a result, the number of agricultural organisations with wage arrears in July 2015 fell from 386 to 345.
Agriculture is among the lowest paid economic activities. The average wage in the industry in July 2015 stood at USD 350, which was 24% below the average in the country. Despite this, agriculture is the main generator of wage arrears. Without state support, only a third of agricultural enterprises are profitable. Agricultural enterprises delay payments for goods and services to other economic sectors, which undermines financial health of their suppliers. A chain of non-payments in the economy thus is usually due to some agricultural organisation.
A possible solution for this problem could be ending malicious practices when state sets low prices for agricultural products, re-orienting production on more profitable agricultural crops depending on geographical location, and strengthening private capital presence in this area. Nevertheless, the state is likely to retain control over the industry under the pretext of ensuring the country’s food security. However, it may gradually cut subsidies to the industry due to the lack of budgetary funds. Wage arrears are likely to be repaid during the harvest season and before the end of the financial year, in December, from accumulated budget surplus.
Agriculture is the main generator of wage arrears in the economy. The state is not ready to give up control over agriculture and wage arrears are likely to be repaid during the harvest season and from accumulated budget surplus in the end of the financial year.
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.