Lukashenka may visit Beijing with two ’high-priority’ project proposals
Amid a sharp deficit in resources, the Belarusian authorities have stepped-up work on developing investment projects, which could help to reduce imports and boost investment. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities are likely to stake on biotechnology and high-tech agricultural production based on it.
On August 8th, 2016 President Lukashenka signed a decree to establish the CJSC Belarusian National Biotech Corporation, which was tasked to develop “a high-priority, export-oriented and import-substitution investment project titled “Organising high-tech full cycle agricultural production in 2016-2032””.
The project envisages the construction of amino acids production plants (lysine, threonine and tryptophan), compound feed production and oilseed processing, as well as a research laboratory and related infrastructure in Pukhovichi region. Yet the funding sources for the project have not been identified. The decree only referred to the "own funds of the CJSC BNBC" and "credit and borrowed" resources. It is very likely that the authorities will attempt to apply for available funds from the recently opened Chinese loan programmes with the overall value USD 10 billion to USD 15 billion, according to different estimates.
Biotechnology was listed among the basic high-tech industries in the Great Stone Sino-Belarusian industrial park in the Smolevichi district. However, that project, also marked as “high priority”, has been frozen. In order to revitalise that project, the Belarusian authorities are preparing a package of new preferential offers for Chinese investors, which will be included in the previously adopted presidential decree establishing the park. On July 21st, 2016 the government adopted a decree, envisaging a call for experts and introduction of the leading international experience in the field at the Great Stone IP. In particular, new Belarusian Ambassador to China Rudy said that the principles of international law could be applied in the park as an additional investment guarantee.
The Biotech Park project is likely to promote negotiations with potential Chinese partners to fund biotechnology in the industrial park on investment basis, rather than on loan basis, which is more agreeable with the Belarusian authorities. Further negotiations on all aspects of these tow ‘high-priority’ projects in Pukhovichi and Smolevichi regions are likely to take place during the Lukashenka’s visit to Beijing scheduled for September 2016.
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.