Lukashenko made a number of foreign visits
On March 18th – 21st, President Lukashenko made official visits to Indonesia and Singapore. On March 22nd he visited the United Arab Emirates.
Lukashenko’s extended tour around South-East Asia and the Middle East is a forced reaction to the unfavorable outcome in the Russo-Belarusian negotiations. Belarus seeks to strengthen its foreign policy “alibi” by demonstrating to Russia other buyers’ interest in Belarusian assets.
The logic behind Lukashenko’s visit to Indonesia and Singapore coincides with the logic of the Serbian President Nikolic’s “spontaneous” visit to Minsk on March 12th – 13th. The Belarusian president aims at expanding the narrowed range of his international contacts. The unfavourable outcome of the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 15th in St. Petersburg, forced Lukashenko to continue strengthening his foreign policy “alibi” in negotiations with the Kremlin.
Lukashenko decided to visit remote countries, rather than to use the opportunity to benefit from the Foreign Ministry’s efforts regarding the resumption of a dialogue with the Belarus’ nearest neighbor - the EU. This behavior should be regarded as a demonstration of the apparent sovereignity of Belarus’ foreign policy.
Belarus’ trade with Indonesia (and Serbia) is low - USD 200 million, and with Singapore is even less - about USD 27 million. Lukashenko’s proposal to Indonesian President Yudhoyono to use Belarus as a trading "gateway" to the Customs Union should also be regarded as a rhetorical move, a fairly typical PR-campaign by the Belarusian authorities. Due to Russia’s tough stance, such offers as a rule do not develop successfully.
Finally, the visit’s main purpose was to demonstrate to Russia that Belarus could potentially find alternative buyers for its assets. Russo-Belarusian negotiations are entering their decisive phase (privatization lists have been agreed at the government level, annual oil supplies volumes have not been signed off and Belarus’ oil supplies have been monopolized by a number of Russian companies), therefore Lukashenko had to counteract and show his independence. While in Singapore, he openly stated that he “is ready to consider any proposals vis-à-vis shares in the largest Belarusian companies”.
Objectively speaking, Belarus’ foreign policy enhancement would have a positive effect on trade and the country’s economic capacity, because Belarus’ political system suggests that active operations in foreign markets are only possible with the president’s approval. Unofficial reports say, that in Indonesia some promising contracts worth USD 400 million were signed off (mostly relating to fertilizers’ trade and agriculture).
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.