Privatization in 2012 will be secret and non-transparent
There is neither a list of enterprises subject to privatization this year in the public domain, nor information about negotiations that are already ongoing, which implies secret and non-transparent nature of the privatization deals. All transactions will be prepared in secrecy and finalized by restricted decrees of Alexander Lukashenko.
The Belarusian authorities have added the government’s stake in mobile operator MTS to the list of companies to be put up for sale in 2012 in order to gain USD 2.5 billion by the year-end.
The sale of the governmental property worth the aforementioned amount is one of Belarus’ commitments vis-?-vis the Anti-Crisis Fund of the EurAsEC.
Neither the list of enterprises has been made public (in fact, the government acknowledges that it has not yet been completed), nor there is information about the ongoing negotiations for the sale of companies (usually such negotiations last six months to a year), which means that privatization will be of a non-transparent and secret nature. Before the end of the year the government will try to stall for time and haggle. For example, Russian investors are prepared to pay USD 500 million for the MTS, while the Belarusian authorities insist on USD 1 billion. Closer to the end of the year when time will come for Belarus to fulfill its commitments, it will start selling enterprises via presidential decrees. In any case, it is not enough to sale the MTS only. According to our estimates, Belarus will not return a USD 1 billion bridge loan to Sberbank of Russia and the Eurasian Development Bank taken at the end of 2011. Accordingly, the pledged majority of shares of Naftan will become the property of creditors. Since this would still be not enough, the country could sell the whole package of shares of Naftanand one or two companies on top of it. All transactions will be prepared in secrecy and finalized by restricted decrees of Alexander Lukashenko. Privatization in favor of domestic investors will never bring significant amounts of cash into the country as no Belarusian businessman has such funds. Domestic privatization will take place however 1) it will not be on a mass-scale, 2) strategic enterprises will be sold to the most solvent customers, that is, to Russian investors.
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.