Trade balance slipped back to negative values
In October 2011 the negative trade balance reached $ 151.7 million, while during the previous 3 months the trade balance was positive. As a result, the trade balance could decrease to the level of 2010. It is the best illustration of the problems of the Belarusian economy and of the inability to improve its competitiveness artificially.
In January-October 2011 foreign trade deficit in goods and services was negative and amounted to USD 2075 million. In October it was negative and amounted to USD 151.7 million, and during the previous 3 months, it had a positive value.
Regardless of almost three-fold devaluation, there is a significant shortfall in Belarus, which needs to be financed either by external borrowing or by the sale of state property. The negative value of the foreign trade balance is mainly due to export-import operations with intermediate products (energy, raw materials and components). The balance of foreign trade in energy was negative, amounting to USD 3 471.2 million, against USD 4116 million in January-October 2010. However, by the end of the year the negative trade balance could reach the level of 2010 (including arrears for gas payments for the third quarter of 2011 of $ 200 million and increased gas prices, as well as slowdown of export growth). It is the best illustration of the problems of the Belarusian economy and of the inability to improve its competitiveness artificially, even though in the medium term. With the strengthening of the Belarusian ruble the effect of the devaluation and its positive impact on export will evaporate completely.
Therefore in 2012 the authorities will once again face the dilemma of: either to sell the gold reserves to support the exchange rate of Br or to devalue the national currency once more. Strong ruble coupled with a loose monetary policy and increasing salaries (the government is forced to raise salaries, as the recession and the subsequent labor migration to Russia becomes a real threat) will once again boost imports and decrease exports.
In the meanwhile, the new forecast of socio-economic development pan by the Government implies the GDP growth at 5% due to exports only. Bearing in mind all of the above, it is clear that the 5% GDP growth has been put there at the request of Alexander Lukashenko. The real economic situation will be much worse: the economy will accumulate old economic problems, which can only be solved by real economic liberalization and privatization.
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.