Outcomes of the year: performance targets not met
On 27 December 2011 a Council of Ministers meeting was held to discuss the preliminary results of the socio-economic development in 2011, and implementation of 2012 tasks. All in all, outcomes are disappointing, while the major “growth factors” in 2012 would be the most failing ones in 2011: FDI, export growth and import substitution.
In the end of 2011 the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) made a second transfer of $ 440 million to Belarus within the agreement with the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund. This was possible following the fulfillment by Belarus of the main preconditions: the President of Belarus signed a Decree on the transfer of non-core assets of the National Bank of Belarus and on the increase in December 2011 of the National Bank rates on instruments to provide liquidity in the interbank market by 5 %. The third tranche ($ 440 million) the Belarusian side expects in the end of February 2012.
The plan on FDI in 2011 on a net basis was a failure: out of planned USD 6.4-6.5 billion on a net basis, de facto Belarus received only $ 1.3 billion, excluding the sale of shares of Beltransgaz. The negative trade balance in January-November 2011 declined to USD 376 million dollars (minus USD 4792 million). Therefore the main problem of the Belarusian economy, i.e. the imbalance between the inflow and outflow of the currency in the country was not resolved. The funding gap was closed by Russian loans and the sale of 50% stake of Beltrangaz.
However, regardless of the failure, the government intends to continue its efforts regarding administrative regulation and control of imports. The State Control Committee has already prepared a draft presidential decree, which envisages tightening of the rules of purchase of imports. The State Standardization Committee has been tasked to prepare a draft regulation to restrict the consumption of imported materials; Ministry of Construction and Architecture was tasked to elaborate the standard costs of construction. Also it is envisaged that import substitution should improve, although there were no improvements in this regard in the course of previous years.
In order to combat the high inflation, the authorities will strengthen control over consumer prices in the country. Therefore as of 1st January 2012 Belarus set the maximum retail selling prices for broiler chicken meat and eggs.
Therefore 2012 will be marked by increasing interference of the central and local authorities in business activities, resulting in increased costs and stimulation of the prices growth. Authorities will spend the budget money on artificial support to state-owned enterprises (projects), which will result in reduced efficiency and competitiveness of the economy as a whole.
The liquidity crisis will be “put out” by new borrowings. However, the third tranche envisages fulfillment of 11 different additional preconditions (monetary, fiscal and other measures based on the results of 2011) and there are reasons to believe it will be delayed.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.