Belarus Country Report Mar18 - March, 2017

March 6, 2018

The economy grew 4.6% year-on-year in January, with the real (non-nominal) GDP measure showing 11.6% growth. The National Bank chalks it up to a result of increased state wages and rising labor productivity from last year.

Exports of goods and services were up 24% year-on-year at $28.65bn and imports were up 23.3% year-on-year at $31.57bn. Rising oil prices undoubtedly helped buy Minsk a cushion to better afford rising imports. The National Bank calculated a 14.9% increase in the value of export goods against a roughly 14.2% increase in spot oil prices over the course of 2017.

Budget revenues were up 2.9% year-on-year for 2017 and the resource sector still provides over half of the budget. Falls in defense spending and industrial production paved the way for a 27% slump in non-oil and gas budget revenues last year.

Minsk successfully raised $600mn in Eurobonds issued in February and plans $1bn a year. It also expects to receive a $200mn tranche from the Eurasian Stabilization Fund in February. The budgetary outlook remains troublesome given oil dependence.

The National Bank reduced the refinancing rate from 11% to 10.5% and the ruble deposits are showing growth. Higher wages and more attractive rates are pushing people to deposit savings in rubles.

In business, private enterprises’ debts rose 11.5% to BYN66.15bn, with overdue debts up down 6.6% to BYN2.46bn. Net profits doubled. All is not complete doom and gloom.

Still, the situation isn’t exactly rosy. The IMF estimates that 32.4% of Belarus’ GDP was tied up in the shadow economy as of 2015 per a study covering 1991-2015. Naturally, much money vanishes into spending and ventures not captured statistically.

Belarus attracted $7.6bn in FDI in 2017 (lead by 38% from Russia, 26.6% from the U, and 7.2% from Cyprus). China extended $1 billion in credit to two state banks. Beijing’s investment strategy is debt-driven, as elsewhere. Bad news for Minsk.

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