State support is unlikely to help Belarusian cement industry
According to the State Control Committee, in recent years the state has allocated over USD 1 billion for the modernization and state support for the cement industry, however its production volumes have not increased. All three cement plants in Belarus are loss making and have a significant amount of overdue debt for energy resources. However, the state is set to continue to support the cement industry, albeit the volume of financial support will be reduced. In addition, the state may introduce administrative barriers for imported cement, including from Russia. Despite all these measures, one of the three cement plants is likely to suspend its activity, which may lead to 1000 people losing their jobs in 2016. Amid decline in the housing construction, existing facilities cannot be used in full due to the lack of opportunities for cement export growth and budget cuts on infrastructure projects.
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.