Oil duties raised
Belarus increased export duties on oil and oil products exported outside the Customs Union territory. This decision of the Council of Ministers of 19 April 2011 № 557 came into force on 1 May.
Export duty on petrol went up to USD 408 per tonne, or 90% of the oil duty replacing the recent 67%, the growth on remaining fuel oil and oil products is not that significant.
Belarus was forced to raise export duty rates on petroleum products following Russia. The latter used such measures to saturate the domestic market with petrol.
In these new circumstances export of petrol by Belarusian refineries becomes unprofitable, and given the high proportion of loss-making sales of petroleum products on the domestic market jeopardizes the profitability of Belarusian oil refining as a whole.
Therefore, refineries asked the government to revoke the binding obligatory sale of 30% of foreign currency earnings. Refineries refer to the difficult financial situation and losses in the first quarter, as a result of: 1. growing world oil prices, 2. changes of conditions for importers of Russian oil (oil price this year includes high rewards for Russian oil barons,) 3. lagging growth of export prices for petroleum products from the raw materials prices, 4. growing consumption of fuel at the domestic market, 5. the need to purchase the entire volume of oil with the shortage of currency to pay for it. It is unlikely that the request of the refineries will be met.
However, the main item of the Belarusian petroleum products export is diesel fuel (40%) and residual fuel (40%) rather than petrol (20%), this casts doubt on the apocalyptic threats by some analysts, in particular the Financial News Agency, which is close to the Russian oil companies. It is obvious that Russian oil companies would be interested in re-exporting petrol from the Belarusian oil refineries to Russia, however so far Belarusian refineries do not consider this option.
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.