Investment imports eat up potash exports growth
On April 1st, Statistics Ministry published foreign trade data in January-February 2013.
Industrial modernization and consumer imports growth neutralized the successes of potash exports and also became a major reason behind the international trade deterioration. In view of the planned concessional lending to industry and agriculture, further deterioration of the international trade situation should be anticipated, even if potash and dairy exports increase.
In February 2013, international trade in goods was negative: minus USD 237.7 million. In January 2013, international trade balance was minus USD 158.8 million. Compared to January-February 2012, the international trade balance deteriorated by USD 916.3 million. Taking into account the production “costs” of solvents, lubricants and biodiesel, trade surplus in 2012 improved due to innovative products by USD 200 million pm on average.
One of the few foreign trade positions in 2013, which could have a positive impact on net exports are potash fertilizers. Contracts, signed with China and India, resulted in a significant increase in potash exports volume and helped offsetting the reduced prices. In value terms, the supply of fertilizers (including the nitrogen fertilizers supply) grew by 38.4%, or by USD 132.2 million in January-February 2013 compared with same period in 2012. Potash exports in January-February 2013 have become the fastest growing exports in Belarus.
In 2013 international trade is suffering from the lack of innovative products, as well as from industrial modernization and consumer imports. In three major investment groups – goods, electrical machinery, vehicles and equipment – imports grew by over USD 420 million in January-February 2013, compared with January-February 2012. Food imports have increased by more than USD 100 million. Import of other commodities is also growing.
Thus, modernization plans and rising incomes have already had an impact on the foreign trade. International trade situation will continue deteriorating due to potential increases in lending at subsidized interest rates to industry and agriculture, even if potash fertilizers and dairy products exports increase.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.