Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 310 - (26/10/06)
Most people, if they have ever heard of it, would regard
Belarus as a backwater. Minsk, however, is the capital, not just of Belarus, but
of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
It is where CIS summits are usually held. It gives the Belarus regime a certain
international legitimacy, albeit of a dolorous kind. It was in Belarus that the
USSR was formally wound up in October 1991, fifteen years ago, reaching its
formal quietus on December 31st of that year.
It was, therefore, a blow when the following news came through.
CIS unable to carry out reforms
In early October, Russia and Kazakstan called off the CIS anniversary summit
without consulting other members of the loose alliance of former Soviet
republics. This decision was apparently motivated by the fact that Ukraine,
Belarus and Georgia disagree with a Russian-Kazak plan to overhaul the CIS.
Other CIS members were outraged at such overbearing behaviour. A disgruntled
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka said some CIS states considered
themselves superior to the others. Ukraine, too, reacted indignantly to the
Andrei Ryabov from the Carnegie Moscow Centre said Moscow and Astana had
problems coordinating the draft CIS reforms with Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine.
He said Russian-Belarusian relations had deteriorated, Ukraine was still
choosing its foreign-policy priorities, and Georgia was on the verge of leaving
the CIS. "Russia and Kazakstan, which have decided they cannot offer
solutions to existing problems that are acceptable to all sides, suggest taking
a break and drafting new proposals," said Ryabov.
The ghost of the Soviet Union
Thomas Hobbes said of the Papacy that it was the ghost of the Roman Empire,
sitting crowned on the grave thereof. It is difficult to compare the CIS to
Roman Catholicism. It is hardly Minsk bearing the eternal flame for the Soviet
Nevertheless, Lukashenka, the only MP to vote against independence in 1991, has
striven since his assumption of power in 1994 to recreate a mini-USSR. He has
partially succeeded. The 150,000-strong KGB, still so named, runs the country,
while 80% of the economy is in state hands. Curiously, Lukashenka is rather
popular with the rural folk, even while the intellectuals, and the students
totally despise him. But his reach does not extend beyond Belarus.
Georgia; the spanner in the works
Fyodor Lukyanov, chief editor of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, said the
CIS had virtually ceased to exist, and different countries maintained different
relations with Russia.
Lukyanov said the summit had been called off due to the reluctance of CIS
countries to comment on the Russian-Georgian conflict.
Russia's CIS partners will have to formulate their position on the current
Russian-Georgian confrontation, said Lukyanov. "I believe they do not want
to do this. Although they hardly support Moscow because they equate themselves
with Georgia, these countries have no desire to criticize Russia," he told
Lukyanov said Russia and Georgia were on the verge of war, Moscow had imposed a
boycott and an economic blockade on Moldova, relations with Ukraine were
unclear, and Lukashenka was making anti-Russian statements.
It comes down to gas
Lukashenka mistakenly thought that his loyalty to the Moscow line on
everything substantial would perennially guarantee him a free ride on Gazprom.
Putin is not so enamoured of him as Yeltsin, irritated by his brashness and
Everybody is going to have to pay market prices for their gas. Within a year or
two the price of gas to Belarus will be close to global levels, Gazprom has made
that quite clear.
Fitch affirms Belarusbank at B
Fitch Ratings recently affirmed Belarus-based Belarusbank's (BBK) ratings at
Issuer Default B- (B minus), Short-term B, Individual D/E and Support 5, the
ratings agency said in a release, New Europe reported.
The Outlook on the Issuer Default Rating (IDR) remains Stable. Fitch notes that
BBK's stand-alone financial strength has improved sufficiently to warrant a B-
(B minus) IDR without considering possible support from the Belarusian
authorities. Previously, the bank's IDR had been driven by the potential for
support being forthcoming from the Belarusian authorities. BBK's improved
stand-alone financial strength reflects the bank's strengthening franchise,
extended track record of sound asset quality and greater funding
diversification. The stable funding base is also a rating positive for the bank.
At the same time, the ratings also reflect the bank's challenging operating
environment, including the high level of actual and potential government
influence on its operations, modest profitability and capitalisation and the low
loan loss reserves.
Economy grows 9.6% in January-September
Belarussian GDP grew 9.6 per cent year-on-year in January-September, Interfax
News Agency reported on October 10th, citing the statistics and analysis
Industrial output grew 12.2 per cent in the nine months - already way above the
6.5 per cent to 8 per cent growth forecast for the full year.
Agricultural output, which has been forecast to rise six-eight per cent this
year, grew 2.2 per cent in the nine months. Consumer goods output rose 10.7 per
cent in the first nine months, including growth of 12.6 per cent for foodstuffs
and 9.1 per cent for nonfoods. Retail turnover soared 17.5 per cent. Capital
investments jumped 31.9 per cent year-on-year in the nine months. In the first
eight months of 2006, foreign trade turnover grew 32.2 per cent year-on-year,
including growth of 27 per cent for exports and 37.6 per cent for imports. GDP
grew 9.2 per cent in 2005, 11.4 per cent in 2004 and 6.8 per cent in 2003.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka has approved a growth forecast of 7.0-8.5
per cent for 2006.
MINERALS & METALS
Ferrous output increases 11% in 8 months
Belarus increased ferrous metals output 11.1 per cent year-on-year in constant
prices in January-August to 1.93 trillion Belarussian roubles, the statistics
and analysis ministry said. Production grew 10.6 per cent to 1.579 million
tonnes of crude steel, 11.6 per cent to 1.52 million tonnes of roll, 30.9 per
cent to 86,700 tonnes of steel pipes, 15.6 per cent to 107,100 tonnes of steel
wire and 12 per cent to 49,500 tonnes of steel cord, New Europe reported.