Lukashenka may visit Beijing with two ’high-priority’ project proposals

August 17, 2016 10:36

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.

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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.