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.
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.