BISS-Timeline №11 (November 2013)

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The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies presents the eleventh issue of monthly monitoring of social, economical, political and cultural spheres. BISS-Timeline analyzes information about main events occurred in November 2013.

The 3rd Eastern Partnership Summit that took place in Vilnius on 28-29 November became the focal point of the month in Belarus’s foreign policy. At the Summit, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makiej spoke about Belarus’s willingness to begin visa facilitation negotiations with the EU citing an “instruction by the president”. Tensions with Russia have relaxed in the wake of the extradition of Uralkali’s CEO Vladislav Baumgertner in late November. This is evidenced by the recently renewed agreements on crude oil supplies in 2013, which the Russian side postponed indefinitely back in October.

What about the field of foreign trade, our analyst admits that after Uralkali withdrawal from the cartel, the global potash price went down to USD320 per ton from USD400 per ton. Based on calculations by the Finance Ministry of Belarus, stripped the country’s budget of BYR5.9 trillion in revenues (about USD631 million), including due to the reduction in sales by 10.6% during the first nine months of 2013.

In 2014, looking to save money and generate new sources of financing of social issues, the authorities will likely pursue a social policy in keeping with the Joint Action Plan of the Council of Ministers and the National Bank of Belarus aiming to increase the competitiveness of the national economy, adopted in October 2013. The plan envisions putting in place a pension reform, cutting cross subsidy and changing the payroll accounting scheme. However, in November, there was no active debate on the possible amendments. Despite the formal increase in pensions and allowances in the wake of the quarterly re-calculation of the average wage, the payroll management system proved ineffective. In November the government kept looking for ways to slash budget expenditures and new sources of financing, including by way of introducing new taxes and duties for some categories of the population.

Bans and restrictions were reintroduced to Belarus’s culture sector in November. The authorities never gave up on their effort to further ideologize the cultural field. The progress of the “Soft Belarusianization” campaign announced earlier this year was restrained to some local achievements. Official and unofficial cultural projects were implemented in parallel tracks that rarely overlapped.

Read November BISS-Timeline issue in PDF format