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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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)

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


(Belarusian Rouble)

Alexander Lukashenka

Update No: 292 - (26/04/05)

Lukashenka says revolution impossible in Belarus
Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenka, only too well aware of what has happened in Georgia, Ukraine and now Kyrgyzstan, said that the political situation in Belarus is stable and there are no prerequisites for a revolution there. 
Talking about the "coloured revolutions" in former Soviet countries at a press session, Lukashenka said that he has "no concern" related to this issue. Lukashenka noted that the country's economy is developing and the citizens' prosperity is growing. "We have no reasons, no prerequisites to gather on squares," Lukashenka said. 
Lukashenka said he is sure that no revolutions will occur in Belarus. "A revolution will not occur in Belarus. Lukashenka can be taken down, that's elementary, but only at elections," he told journalists in Baranovichi. 
He asserts that a change of authority according to the Georgian or Kyrgyz scenario would be impossible in Belarus. "These were not even revolutions, it was banditry, when a couple of people took over the building where the president's office is. That was it. So what kind of president is it?" Lukashenka said. It is interesting that he failed to mention the most relevant and important country from his point of view, Ukraine. Too close to home?

Back to Russia 
Lukashenka's main idea for a long time is for Belarus to form a union with Russia. He has not been successful in winning over the technocrats in Moscow to the notion. But one person grateful to him right now for his Russophilia is no less a figure than Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin called the shots wrong in Ukraine recently, backing the loser in the elections there last year. He has lost the support of the government in Moldova. For Belarus, the remaining Slav state in the FSU, to remain loyal is now doubly appreciated.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Lukashenka felt able to describe the talks with Putin on April 4th in Sochi as being among the most productive in their relationship. "It was one of the most productive meetings, and it served the main purposes of our integration," Lukashenka said. 
The president emphasized particularly the economic component of the talks. "The volume of reciprocal trade exceeded $17 billion, going up by more than 40 percent on the past year," Lukashenka said. He described the arrangement to keep the tariffs for natural gas for Belarus in 2006 at the 2005 level as one of the most important results of the Sochi meeting. 
For its part, Belarus will keep up the most acceptable conditions for the further development and levelling out of the volumes of transportation of Russian gas over its territory, the president said. Besides, Lukashenka noted, there are no problems with concluding long-term, up to 2020, arrangements on the volumes of supplies of fuel and energy sources to Belarus. 
The Belarussian president said the questions of the single currency and of adopting a constitutional act had been raised at the meeting in Sochi, with what effect he failed to mention.
Besides, the presidents confirmed the earlier arrangements to coordinate actions on the international arena, coordinated steps toward acceding to the World Trade Organization, and also exchanged opinions on the prospects of the development of the common economic space of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine; the Eurasian Economic Community; and the future of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). 

Belarus no longer the preferred conduit for Russian gas to Europe 
One of the key results of the Sochi meeting Lukashenka said was the agreement on preserving the natural gas tariffs for Belarus in 2006 at the 2005 level. "For our part, our republic will preserve maximally agreeable conditions for the further development and build-up of Russian gas transportation via Belarus", Lukashenka said. 
He added that "the Belarussian side is ready to grant Gazprom the required preferences for the development of the gas transport infrastructure in the territory of our republic". Herein lies obvious mutual benefit for both Russians and Belarussians. The Belarussian government is ready to interact with Gazprom in building the second thread of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline, Lukashenka said.
For the moment the various 'coloured' revolutions in the FSU seem to be playing into his hands.

Condi meets the opposition 
But two events that must have infuriated the Minsk tyrant are as follows:-
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Belarus opposition figures in Vilnius at the NATO meeting there in mid-April. Various statements were made, obviously aimed at Lukashenka, about fair elections in Belarus
They are exiles and of little account in his eyes. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov was also there but unsurprisingly evinced no desire to meet them. For the moment the one power that could topple Lukashenka, Russia, is showing no desire to do so. They have no interest in regime change there, he said. 
Secondly, only days after the Lukashenka meeting with Putin in Sochi, the Russian president was signing a major gas pipeline deal with Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, that will bypass Belarus as a transiting country. This, after Lukashenka had thought that Belarus would be the beneficiary of Ukraine's new leadership breaking its feudal relationship with Russia. The Baltic Sea is the chosen route cutting out both Belarus and Ukraine.

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Fitch rates Belgazprombank B-, stable outlook

Fitch Ratings, the international ratings agency, assigned the Belarus-based Belgazprombank (BGB) ratings of long-term foreign currency B-; short-term foreign currency B; individual E; and support 5, Interfax News Agency reported.
The outlook is stable, the rating agency said in a report. BGB's long-term, short-term and support ratings are based on Fitch's view of the likelihood of support for the bank being forthcoming from its main shareholder, Russian integrated gas utility Gazprom (long-term BB, rating watch positive).
However, the sovereign risk of Belarus limits the extent to which this support can be factored into the ratings, the statement said. BGB's individual rating reflects its small size and franchise, weak profitability and moderate capitalisation. It also takes into account the bank's high dependence on its main shareholder and concentration levels on both sides of the balance sheet, as well as significant weaknesses in the operating environment. But it also factors in BGB's adequate, to date, asset quality and relatively strong management.
BGB's profitability is weak with a return on equity below the estimated inflation rate and a third of revenue coming from volatile sources of income, Fitch said.
Although asset quality seems to be adequate at present, rapid loan growth could result in some deterioration of asset quality. The loan book is highly concentrated by international standards, but reported lending to related parties, including entities of the Gazprom group, is not significant. The majority of non-equity funding is from current accounts of customers, which are highly concentrated. 
Related parties account for a significant 19% of total customer funding. BGB's capitalisation is undermined by the high level of fixed assets, rapid asset growth, a highly concentrated loan book and modest loan loss reserves. BGB was founded in 1991 and at the end of the first half last year was the ninth largest bank in Belarus by assets and equity. Gazprom, together with its subsidiary, Gazprombank, owns a 68% stake in the bank, while entities controlled by the Belarussian government hold a 32% share.

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Belarus gold/forex reserves grow 14%

The National Bank of Belarus' gold and forex reserves (national definition) increased 14% over January-February to US$1.193bn on March 1st, the central bank said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The reserves had increased 20.1% in February after contracting 5.1% in January. Of the reserves, deposits in the national currency increased 19.6% to US$897.8m in January-February, deposits in gold contracted 14.4% to US$169m worth, and other assets increased 27.9% to US$126.2m.

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Belarus looks to increase Mediobanca loan to 100m Euro

Belarus wants to increase the credit line extended by Italy's Mediobanca from 20m Euro to 100m Euro this year, Belarussian Deputy Economics Minister, Leonid Demidov, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"There will soon be a meeting with the SACE (Italy's export credit insurance agency management, at which will be addressed the possibility of increasing the Italian credit line to 100m Euro," Demidov said. "The forecast on this is promising, since we have positive relations with the Italians," he added.
Mediobanca opened the credit line under government guarantee in May last year following a visit to Italy by Belarussian Prime Minister, Sergei Sidorsky. In 2004 "it was decided to extend government guarantees to an overall US$75m, which is 2.6 times more than in 2003," Demidov said. But the government has tasked Belarussian banks with raising foreign loans without governmental guarantees on US$1bn.

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