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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)

Books on Belarus


Area (


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


(Belarusian Rouble)

Alexander Lukashenka

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 Russian-Kazak initiative.
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 Union. 
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 the paper.
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. Not so.
Putin is not so enamoured of him as Yeltsin, irritated by his brashness and stupidity.
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.

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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.

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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 ministry. 
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.

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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.

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