On February 12th, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich visited Belarus.
Modernization plans and foreign debts payments require significant financial resources. Russia remains the only major potential creditor. Russia links loans to implementation of joint projects. Investors from other countries will be directly or indirectly limited by requirement to provide loans.
The State Programme for Belarus’ Industrial development until 2020 envisages, that the economy requires USD 10 billion annual net profit for industrial modernization. Belarus’ economy net proceeds in 2012 were USD 8.6 billion. Foreign investment is needed. In 2013 it is planned to attract USD 4.5 billion net FDI.
Economy Ministry compiled a list of 800 companies, which can be sold to domestic and foreign investors. The State Property Committee plans to make USD 5 billion from the sale of minority stakes in 103 enterprises, including Belaruskali, Naftan, GrodnoAzot.
The State budget cannot be used due to the high foreign debt payments: in 2013 the state has to pay off USD 3 billion. Russia can provide loans, but only for implementing joint projects.
On December 12th, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dvorkovich visited several companies in the country’s three regions. Formally, the countries are talking about joint ventures, but the example with Rosbelavto demonstrates that Russia will insist on having a controlling stake in joint ventures and will acquire shares needed control a company. It is planned to establish two joint ventures for the potash fertilizer production: one based on GrodnoAzot, and another joint venture based on Integral and Gomselmash. A signal of Belarus’ compliancy was closure of the issues regarding establishing of a joint trader Soyuzkaly – negotiations lasted for a long time.
In late February fulfillment by Belarus its commitments to the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund will be considered. Privatization condition (USD 2.5 billion annually) was not fulfilled. Belarus has received a clear signal that failure to implement this condition will result in delays with the allocation of the loan’s next tranche – as it was with the 4th tranche.
An additional incentive for the government is the situation on the currency market. The fourth tranche was spent entirely to reimburse the outflow of foreign exchange reserves.
Thus, Dvorkovich’s visit has identified the “first round” companies, the management of which could be taken over by Russia through joint ventures. Belarus will still attempt to negotiate the price, but unlikely will be able to delay the privatization process indefinitely. In any case, negotiations on long-term project MAZ-KAMAZ are moving to their final stage, and the harmonization of the conditions to establish a joint venture Soyuzkali is almost complete. In the meanwhile, the deal with establishing a joint venture based on MKZT could be finalized sooner than others.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.