5 Must-Know Economic And Social News From Belarus

After a news-wise week, BelarusFeed put together some of the most important news that hit the headlines on  12-18 November to keep you updated.

1. A moment of truth for Belarus’s relations with the EU.

In the past two months, Belarus has actively restored relations with the United States, has confirmed its loyalty in relations with Russia and concluded contracts for $ 101 million with Ukraine.

The next six months should become a marker in relations with the European Union.

“If the cautious optimism by the head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry about agreeing on the text of the agreement by the end of 2018 will not be justified, then it can remain unsigned.

In this case, a period of uncertainty may ensue in the relationship between Minsk and Brussels,” experts believe.

Read also: Belarus plans to sign EU partnership priorities in 2018

The authors of the research also note a new round in Belarus’s relations with the USA. The visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell is believed to give a new start to contacts at a new political level.

2. The economy of Belarus is growing but problems persist.

The IMF predicts a 3.5–3.7% increase in GDP for the current year. Oil prices are high, high prices in foreign markets and wages within the country have grown rapidly.

Nonetheless, the country still has three vulnerabilities: export geography is narrow, high dependence on Russia, substantial dollarization, and high foreign debt.

Read also: Belarus gets $1.4 Bln in foreign investment in 2019. What it needs to get more

The conclusions were made by Jacques Minyan, the head of the IMF mission in Belarus, at a briefing on the results of the planned mission in November in Belarus.

The key idea of the IMF experts is to use the current growth to solve problems and eliminate vulnerabilities. Minyan noted that it would be useful for Belarus to carry out consolidation in the public sector in order to ensure the consolidation of foreign debt.

3. Russia completed preparation of an agreement on the mutual recognition of visas with Belarus.

The draft agreement between Belarus and Russia on the mutual recognition of visas is at a high state of readiness, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Mikhail Babich said.

Russia’s Ambassador to Belarus Mikhail Babich

“From the Russian side everything has been done to ensure that this agreement was signed,” the diplomat stated.

Read also: International checkpoint may appear on Belarus-Russia border

Work on an agreement on the mutual recognition of visas in Belarus and Russia has been going on for over a year. So far, the issue of crossing the internal border by citizens of third countries remains unresolved.

4. The GDP growth slows down due to lower agricultural production.

The country’s gross domestic product in January-October 2018 in current prices amounted to BYN 100.6 billion. This is 3.5% more than during the same period of 2017 at comparable prices.

In the first nine months, the increase was 3.7%, in the first half of the year – 4.5%, in five months – 4.7%, in four months – 4.8%. EDB experts note that growth is slowing, but remains high, which may indicate the end of the recovery phase of economic activity.

The increase was observed in all branches of the manufacturing industry. The decline in August output is mainly due to the decline in agricultural production.

The preliminary forecast of economic growth for 2019 is from 2.8% in a modest scenario and to 4.1% in a target scenario.

5. Amendments to the legislation.

The House of Representatives received a bill to strengthen the fight against the propaganda of Nazism and extremism in Belarus. It provides criminal liability – for up to five years – for the rehabilitation of Nazism.

Read also: Belarus may ban photographing of people on the streets

Administrative liability is provided for storage or acquisition of extremist and terrorist symbols and paraphernalia for dissemination.

It is either a fine of up to 10 basic units (BYN 245) or an administrative arrest, a fine of up to 50 basic units (BYN 1,225) for entrepreneurs, and up to 200 basic units (BYN 4,900 rubles) for legal entities.