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BELARUS


  

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 17,493 14,304 12,200 76
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,590 1,360 1,290 122
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Belarus

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
207,595

Population
10,310,520

Principal ethnic groups
Belarusians 77.9%
Russians 13.2%
Poles 4%

Capital
Minsk

Currency
Rubel 
(Belarusian Rouble)

President
Alexander Lukashenka


Update No: 311 - (29/11/06)

The world is watching 
President Alexander Lukashenka has ruled the ex-Soviet republic of 10 million with an iron fist since 1994. He is a pariah in the West for crushing dissent and prolonging his rule through votes widely seen as fraudulent. In the latest in March he got 83% of the vote and his opponent 6%, not exactly credible. OSCE, the arbiter of these elections, said that it has a bogus result
The regime in Belarus is known to be a vile tyranny, the last such one in Europe. Its neighbours, but also people from further afield, are considering ways of ending it from outside. This is not, however, an easy proposition.
There was a world-wide series of demonstrations in October last year. But these only made the Ogre of Minsk tighten the screws further, as did domestic demonstrations in July. So long as he has 150, 000 KGB thugs to protect him and his regime he is safe.

The Russians turn nasty
There is only one power that has any leverage over Belarus, of course Russia. There are some signs that Moscow is getting fed up with the tyrant. Putin was wont to say of him what he has said of other post-Soviet despots: "He may be a scoundrel; but he is our scoundrel."
But what benefit accrues to the Russians from having their own scoundrel in Minsk. Belarus has nothing but shoddy goods to offer in exchange for subsidized energy. Moscow is rethinking this.
Belarus faces a fourfold rise in gas prices, although Gazprom is believed to be willing to compromise if the country hands over 50 percent of the state pipeline through which Russian gas transits to Western Europe.

Germany 'very worried' about health of Belarus opposition leader Kozulin
The German government said on November 17th that it is "very worried" about the health of jailed Belarusian opposition leader Alexander Kozulin and renewed a call to Minsk to release him and other political prisoners.
Kozulin was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison in July after being convicted of organizing an unauthorized rally against the disputed March re-election of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenka. A former cellmate said that his health has declined badly since he started a hunger strike nearly a month ago.
The German government "is very worried about his state of health," Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said, adding that the German Embassy in Belarus has been in touch with Kozulin's wife. "He is not doing well and he is being harassed by prison authorities - for example, he can shower only once a week," Jaeger said.
Kozulin ran against Lukashenka in a campaign marred by widespread arrests and harassment of the opposition. Jaeger said his conviction was of an "openly political nature."
"The German government once again calls on the Belarusian government to release without delay Mr. Kozulin and all other political prisoners," he said. 

Minsk summit to focus on CIS reform - Lukashenka
Despite being a pariah in the West, Minsk is still the capital of the CIS, the successor to the USSR.
The CIS reform was to be the main item on the agenda of the organization's Minsk summit at the end of November, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka said. "We want the reform not to break the fragile organization," he said. Belarus will support any CIS reforms that imply "de-bureaucratization and fulfilment of agreements," he said. 
"However, we are against reforms that will ruin the CIS," Lukashenka said. 
In his words, Belarus was ready to host the summit and "give a worthy welcome to the chiefs of state." 
The summit was to have over 30 items on the agenda. "The agenda will be updated before the summit," Lukashenka said.
All this ceremony gives him legitimacy, at least in his own eyes.
The CIS summit in Minsk coincides with the NATO summit in Riga, capital of Latvia, next door. This is Moscow's way of saying what it thinks of the expansion of NATO to the Baltic states. Having a loyal lapdog in Lukashenka is not much of a compensation for that devastating setback to its self-esteem. But it is better than nothing and why his rule is secure.

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BANKING

National Bank of Belarus to agree sale of 2 banks by year-end 


The National Bank of Belarus plans to reach a general agreement with investors by the end of the year on the sale of its stake in two Belarus banks - Belvnesheconombank and Mezhtorgbank. "A general decision on the sale of the stake in Belvnesheconombank is expected by year-end," National Bank Chairman, Pyotr Prokopovich, said at a press conference in Minsk on October 19th, New Europe reported.
Talks on Mezhtorgbank are also close to conclusion, he said. The National Bank is considering proposals from several investors, he said. "The situation has changed in terms of Paritetbank - the sale of the controlling stake is not planned," he said. A micro-financing bank will be established on the basis of Paritetbank, he explained. Russia's Vneshtorgbank will at the end of the year become the main shareholder of Belarus bank Slavneftebank, Prokopovich said. "The usual bureaucratic work is being implemented, including switching (Slavneftebank) from a closed joint stock company to an open joint stock company. Work is continuing as planned and it will be concluded soon," he said.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Lukashenka visits Iran for talks with Ahmadinejad 

Belarussian President, Alexander Lukashenka, flew to Iran on a three-day official visit on November 12th, New Europe reported.
Lukashenka was expected to meet with the Iranian commerce minister, presidential envoy and chairman of the mixed Belarussian-Iranian commission on economic cooperation Masud Mir-Kazemi. On November 13th the Belarussian president held talks with Iranian President, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, and with Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The programme of Lukashenka's visit also included talks with First Vice President, Parviz Davudi. On November 14th, Lukashenka visited the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum. Also on November 14th Lukashenka met with President Ahmadinejad again. Belarus and Iran established diplomatic relations back in 1993, the Belarussian presidential press service said. 
In December 1997 a Belarussian embassy was opened in Iran, and in 2001 an Iranian embassy was opened in Minsk. Lukashenka visited Iran in March 1998. Former Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, paid a return visit to Belarus in September 2004. The summit visit was in line with agreements reached by the two countries at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana in September 2006.

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FOREIGN TRADE

National Bank of Belarus forecasts foreign trade surplus 

National Bank of Belarus Chairman, Pyotr Prokopovich, expects a foreign trade surplus in 2006 that will enable an increase in gold and foreign currency reserves by year-end. "The trend of the last two months indicates that a foreign trade surplus can be achieved for the year and that gold and foreign currency reserves will be up," Prokopovich said at a press conference in Minsk on October 19th, New Europe reported.
The foreign trade balance will stabilise due to an increase in potash fertilizer exports, he said. "We are currently increasing fertilizer exports considerably and they alone will give a rise in exports of US$300 million," he said. Belarus had posted a foreign trade deficit of US$308 million on September 1, compared with a deficit of US$350 million on July 1, 2006. "Taking into account the rise in exports, we plan to bring the deficit to zero by year-end or to have a small surplus," Prokopovich said. The National Bank chairman also predicts a current account balance of payments surplus in 2006. 

Foreign trade deficit will be US$200m in 2006 

The Belarussian Economics Ministry is forecasting that the country's foreign trade deficit, including foreign trade services, will be approximately US$200 million in 2006. "The foreign trade deficit in 2006 will be US$200 million. Even including services, we won't see a surplus or even a zero balance," a ministry official said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Belarus' foreign trade deficit was US$308.6 million in January-August. The Belarussian government had planned a foreign trade surplus of US$500 million in 2006. Belarus' foreign trade surplus was US$164.6 million in 2005, compared with a deficit of US$1.85 billion in 2004.

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GOLD RESERVES

Belarus gold, forex reserves all 1.3% in 10 months 

Belarus's international reserves, as calculated by International Monetary Fund methodology, fell 1.3 per cent year-on-year in January-October 2006 and amounted to US$1.279 billion, the National Bank of Belarus said in a statistical report, New Europe reported.
The reserves grew 10.7 per cent in October after growing 1.3 per cent during September. Foreign currency assets dropped 3 per cent to US$1.073 billion on November 1, after growing 12.8 per cent in October, and monetary gold grew 7.8 per cent to US$204.9 million, after growing 0.9 per cent in October. The other reserves stood at US$1.5 million. Gold and foreign reserves grew 5.4 per cent to US$1.685 billion in the ten months. They rose seven per cent in October after increasing 1.3 per cent in September

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