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BELARUS


  

 

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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: 291 - (30/03/05)

The threat of revolution
The regime in Belarus, regarded as Europe's last dictatorship, is very alarmed at what is going on in Kyrgyzstan. The Belarussian Foreign Ministry has called on Kyrgyzstan to settle its political crisis using legal means.
In the capital of Belarus, Minsk, demonstrators tried to rally outside the office of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenka on March 25th, Easter Friday, to demand his ouster in a self-declared attempt to emulate the uprising in Kyrgyzstan, but they were beaten back by riot police swinging truncheons.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry harshly assailed the Kyrgyz opposition, warning that protests that drove Akayev from power could destabilize the entire region. Mass riots and the seizure of administrative buildings are not constructive instruments of resolving political differences, the ministry said in a statement quoted by the news agency, Interfax. "We ... urge all parties involved to settle any disputes within the framework of the law," the statement said.
All that needs to be said about this reaction is that Belarus and Kyrgyzstan are both former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and both are ruled by authoritarian regimes.

Belarus the backward
One of Europe's post-Soviet laggards, Belarus has been the fief of the cunning and erratic Alexander Lukashenka since 1994. Lukashenka was first elected president in July 1994 having received 80.4 percent of the vote in the second round. In September 2001, he was re-elected with 75.6 percent in the first round.
According to the old Belarus' Constitution, the same person could be elected president for no more than two terms. Changes to the Constitution on this issue could only be made after a referendum. That duly happened on October last year. 
The referendum was set for the day of the parliamentary elections in Belarus, October 17, also won by the regime. The only question for it was whether Belarussian people would allow the president of the republic, Lukashenka, to take part in the presidential elections as a candidate and whether they approve article 81 part 1 of the Constitution in the following edition: the president is elected for five years directly by the nation in the universal free, equal, direct elections via secret ballot. The voters did endorse it.
Lukashenka has tightened his grip on power, transforming elections into a sham, and appears set to win any other rigged referendum whenever he wants. He has repressed all opposition, even relying on death squads, which helped him win September 2001's presidential poll. That which does exist remains muted, though some officials have spoken out.
In foreign relations, Lukashenka has provoked and alienated Western diplomats. The U.S. Congress has passed economic sanctions against Belarus, calling Lukashenka's regime tyrannical. In response, Belarussian president called this act "stupid," the congressmen "dumb-asses."
One of Belarus' few friends is Russia, which props up the country's decrepit economy by supplying cheap energy. Lukashenka would like to reunite the two countries, but enthusiasm for the plan has waned. He and Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, have a strained relationship.

Russia-Belarus congress takes place in Moscow
The second congress of the peoples of Russia and Belarus was held in Moscow on March 26th, but under the sponsorship of a very different Russian leader, Gennady Zyuganov, chairman of the Communist Party of Russia, which provided assistance in organizing the forum. 
As many as 200 Belarussian representatives, among them members of parliament and heads of political movements and organizations, attended the congress, which took place in Moscow's Izmailovo district.
Zyuganov is a fervent fan of the idea of integrating Belarus with Russia. But he is not likely ever to come to power. Lukashenka has backed the wrong horse.

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ENERGY

Belarus approves huge oil transit tariffs increase

Belarus went ahead with plans to boost the tariff for the transit of oil products, Itar-Tass News Agency reported recently.
The 75.4% increase affected the US$0.89 per tonne for 100 kilometres through one of its pipelines, Mosnews said in a report. The decision was made by the Belarussian Ministry of Economics in keeping with the Belarussian-Russian inter-governmental agreement "On Interaction and Operation of Oil Mains in Belarus," according to Itar-Tass.
About nine million tonnes of oil are transported through Belarus each year. Experts were quoted as saying that the tariff rise would help the government fill its coffers as the budget revenue will rise by another US$4.5m. Russian oil majors YUKOS, LUKoil, TNK-BP and Sibneft use Belarussian pipelines to send their oil products to eastern and central Europe. 
"The decision was made in accordance with an agreement reached last June and it relates to Zapad-Nefteprodukt," an official at the economics ministry was quoted as saying by Mosnews. The company shipped about eight million tonnes of oil products last year when the transit fee was US$0.51 per tonnes, the reports said.

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MINERALS & METALS

Gold, forex reserves shrink 5.1%

Belarus' national definition gold and foreign currency reserves contracted 5.1% to US$993.3m in January, the National Bank of Belarus announced recently, New Europe reported.
Of the gold and forex reserves, deposits in foreign currency decreased 6.6% to US$701.4m, those in gold 17.1% to the equivalent of US$163.7m. The value of other assets declined 30% over the month to the equivalent of US$128.2m. Belarus' international reserves, as calculated by International Monetary Fund (IMF) methods, contracted 10% in January to US$692.8m. Foreign currency reserves in non-resident deposits went down 6.9% to US$642.7m.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Mobile subscribers grow 8%

The number of active GSM mobile subscribers in Belarus, according to market operators, Mobile Digital Communications and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), exceeded 2.54m people on March 1st, which is 8.1% higher that at the start of the year, Interfax News Agency reported.
The number of registered subscribers in the company's network as of March 1st 2005 amounted to over 1.22m, up 7.5% from the start of the year, said a source in Mobile Digital Communications (trade name Velcom). The MTS subscriber base increased 8.7% in January-February to amount to over 1.32m, the source said. The number of active GSM subscribers in Belarus increased 110% in 2004 to 2.35m subscribers.

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