Although Belarus has greatly benefited from the recent developments on the energy market, the country should not rely on low energy prices in the long–term perspective. After all, hydrocarbon resources will not last for long. In fact, in July 2013 the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of the Russian Federation released a report on oil and gas reserves located in Russia. The report read that as of 1 January 2013, there were 17.8 billion tonnes of oil and 48.8 trillion cubic meters of gas. According to experts, if Russia’s economy keeps growing at the same pace, the reserves will last for as little as 30 years.
Of course, there are unexplored areas and circum–arctic resources, but difficult geological and production conditions will result in higher prices for oil and gas and make deposit exploration economically inefficient. Besides, traditional energy sources are now increasingly challenged by cheap energy obtained from alternative energy sources.
Thus, there is one alternative to energy– and resource–saving and there is no other way but to follow suit of economically active but resource–poor countries.
In H1 in Vitebsk Oblast the energy saving indicator was minus 5.1%, while the H1 and annual targets were minus 3% and minus 7% respectively. About 109,200 tonnes of fuel equivalent was saved. More than Br3.7 trillion from all sources of funding was utilized over the six months under the Vitebsk Oblast energy saving program, including about Br7.9 billion allocated from the national budget.
How did the region manage to perform so well when its energy consumption and generation are the highest in Belarus
As is known, energy resources, in particular, natural gas, account for the lion’s share of the country’s spending. Therefore, it is imperative that all economic sectors of Belarus should dramatically reduce the consumption of heat and electric energy. The problem is particularly relevant for housing and public utilities, as they consume about 35% of the heat energy generated in the country. The reduction of energy consumption in this sector will result in lower energy intensity of GDP and considerable energy saving for the country.
However, this is not the only way to save resources. For example, housing and public utilities are actively working to expand the use of recoverable resources, reduce expenses associated with service provision, and encourage people to optimize the use of energy resources.
As a new way of integration in the postSoviet space the Customs Union represents a strategic choice of three nations — Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia.
In the present phase of its consistent development the bulk of the efforts is focused on the complicated but necessary formation of a common commodity market. In addition to removing barriers in the mutual trade it is vital to secure the competitive ability of the national economies and the region as a whole at the international level.
The reformation of the Belarusian science has been in the air for several years already. Various options were considered, like transformation of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) into a nongovernmental organization and transfer of all fundamental research projects to universities and applied research projects to companies. Another option was to maximize concentration of all research projects in the Academy, turn the NASB into a huge research and production corporation and set up holding companies at affiliated research centers, manufacturing companies and organizations. There were also suggestions to reorganize the Academy into a government agency that will supervise research, engineering and innovative activities.
Belarus’ construction industry is going through hard times now. The industry is riddled with many problems such as failures to meet deadlines, high cost of housing, disregard for construction timelines, and corruption. In fact, customers do not want anything extraordinary from builders. All they want is a quality home built on time and on budget.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the situation in the construction industry is disastrous and demanded that all the endemic flaws should be eliminated. A special task group has been set up to come to grips with the existing issues.
Expanding cooperation with Asian countries is among the most important objectives of Belarus’ multiplevector policy on the international arena. At present the priority partners in the region include China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia with which Belarus is promoting largescale cooperation in multiple areas.
Mongolia might become another strategic partner of Belarus in the future. In September 2013 the Belarusian delegation led by Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich paid an official visit to the country for the first time since the diplomatic relations were established 21 years ago. The officials noted that Belarus and Mongolia are wellpositioned to promote and expand bilateral ties.
The Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus was established upon the Belarus President’s decree in June 2011 with a view to financing government programs and socially important investment projects. Over the two years the Bank has turned into a commercially successful organization able to tackle most ambitious and largescale projects. In 2012 alone the Bank provided Br4.8 trillion in loans for 11 government programs. Over this time the loan portfolio of the Bank soared 4.8 times and was estimated at Br10.2 trillion as of 1 January 2013. This year the Bank proceeds with capacity building. It was granted more powers to handle external borrowing and was authorized to grant export loans. Besides, it became a principal shareholder in the national leasing operator Promagroleasing. The nearterm plans of the Bank include promotion of its export and leasing businesses. The Bank also considers setting up its own insurance company and debuting on the foreign borrowing market. Chairman of the Board of the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus Sergei RUMAS talks about the Bank’s plans in an interview with the Economy of Belarus Magazine.
The heyday of gold is over. The tenyear growth cycle when the price for this metal grew from $250 per troy ounce in 2001 to $1,920 in 2011 (almost an eightfold increase) seems to have come to an end. By this June, the price went down to $1,180 having lost almost 40% of the maximum and most likely it has not hit the bottom yet.
The capacity of the Belarusian jewelry market is obviously huge. This industry is experiencing a robust growth. The number of producers and vendors is increasing, so is the sales volume. In 2012 alone some 533,600 pieces of gold jewelry and gemstone jewelry worth Br888.8 billion were sold, as well as 668,300 pieces of silver jewelry worth Br179.4 billion. Yet, Belarusians often have to buy foreignmade jewelry to satisfy their thirst for “timeless values”. At the same time Belarusian products sell extremely well abroad: diamonds cut in Gomel are used to make jewelry for the famous jewelry companies Cartier and Tiffany. Belarusian specialists were involved in the creation of the finest and most complicated piece of jewelry of modern times – a replica of the Great Imperial Crown of Russia. In order to revive the Belarusian jewelry market and boost exports of domestic jewelry products, a decision was made to bring together staterun jewelry manufacturers. The holding company “KRISTALLHOLDING” was registered in September 2012 to consolidate the assets of three leading jewelry companies –
JSC “Gomel MA “Kristall”, JSC “Beluvelirtorg” and CJSC “Belgran”.
Although Belarus has made a name for itself in producing trucks and heavyduty vehicles, the country has virtually no car industry. Considering Belarus’ technical and human resources, it seemed the country should have no problem setting up a big car company, or even a few of them. After getting some bumps and bruises along the way, Belarus decided to revisit the matter. After all, the country’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space promises handsome benefits for domestic car producers.
Belarus is located at the crossroads of European highways. Given this fact, road service business is supposed to be thriving in the country. However, the number of roadside facilities and the quality of customer service still leave much to be desired. In the runup to the 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk the issue is getting increasingly relevant. At a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers in August Belarusian Premier Mikhail Myasnikovich gave instructions to optimize the number of services available on national trunk roads depending on traffic intensity. What are the prospects of the road service business and how comfortable is the journey along Belarusian highways for local residents and foreigners?
The global practice of charging drivers for using certain motorways has a long history and its necessity is quite clear – highquality toll roads are quite lucrative for any state. The main share of the profits goes into road service development, construction of new motorways and renovation of existing ones. All this does not only contribute to safer passenger and cargo transportation, but also boosts reputation of transit states. Belarus is one of these countries.
It will be easier for Belarusians to deal with many vital matters via the World Wide Web. These could be getting loans, registering real estate ownership rights, and registering their vehicles with traffic police. Plans have been made to accelerate the transition to digital services. The establishment of a universal system to identify natural persons and legal persons is nearly finished. A root certification authority is being introduced. Preparations are underway to unite all the government digital services. The changes will allow using digital signature keys to order the services that now require personal visits to multiple government agencies and institutions. Moreover, the introduction of national identification cards will begin in the next two years. The cards will enable citizens to get documents, pay for merchandise, and claim benefits. Director of the National Center for Digital Services
Andrei ILYIN tells the Economy of Belarus Magazine what information technology novelties the country should expect.
The hegemony of analog television that was reigning in Belarus for more than half a century is coming to an end. Belarus is decisively marching into a new digital era and extending broadcasting coverage, deactivating analog transmitters and launching groundbased broadcasting. The public will be offered eight free and 36 commercial digital TV channels, the state will be able to optimize the use of radio frequencies and cellular operators will reap “digital dividends” to develop LTE networks. The move should not come as a surprise for people. Unequipped with digital settop boxes, some TV sets will turn into useless artefacts.
Integration has always been and will be a key to success, a kick starter that allows both exploring new horizons and reaching beyond one’s limits. There is no need to list its advantages as they are pretty clear. Today everybody understands the benefits of joint action, including scientists of Belarus and Russia involved in a number of joint Union State programs and projects in manufacturing, power engineering, construction, innovation and new technologies, joint outer space exploration, information technologies, etc. The fruits of all these activities are competitive products, production facilities operating to their maximum capacity, new jobs and booming exports.
Since ancient times flax has been one of the most important crops in Belarus and Russia. The fastidious plant was irreplaceable: flax was used to make clothing, medicines and food. Even now, it is the number one raw material for making ecofriendly and organic products.
New technologies made flax processing wastefree and costeffective and considerably expanded the use of this crop. Today it is used in the textile industry, mechanical engineering, in the defense sector, by paper mills and companies manufacturing healthcare products and foodstuffs.
This is the reason why Belarus and Russia have decided to revive flax production and upgrade the flax processing industry. Both countries are going to unite their efforts to regain the status of the leading manufacturers of “the northern silk”.
Everything is ready for pouring the first lot of concrete into the foundation of the nuclear island at the Ostrovets site where the first powergenerating unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is supposed to be commissioned in as little as five years. While government officials, experts, and lawyers are busy wrapping up the last details required for the official launch of the Belarusian nuclear power plant construction, which is one of the most important allied investment and energy projects of Belarus and Russia, new units of the infrastructure, engineering, and manufacturing base are commissioned in Ostrovets one after another. Despite the colossal amount of work and impressive work pace the construction companies keep up with the toughest quality requirements and observe the most rigorous technological discipline. The fact has been confirmed by multiple inspections carried out by Belarusian, Russian, and foreign nuclear industry specialists.
The public jointstock company Krichevcementnoshifer is a leading Belarusian manufacturer of cement and one of the largest manufacturers of construction materials in Belarus. Today Krichevcementnoshifer’s products are used at all the construction sites of the country as well as in several major projects in Russia.
The company’s success and firm stance on the home market and abroad are logical. The company owes its success to investments in production upgrade, focus on modern technologies and highly trained personnel.
The Customs Union can be viewed as one of the three pillars of Belarus’ sugar industry. The other two are state support (the third government program to promote the industry is now underway in Belarus) and a smart business strategy of sugar manufacturers. Over the past fifteen years domestic sugar producers have managed to build up a strong economic foundation, and now enjoy a solid standing in the Customs Union.
In June Gorodeya Sugar Refinery was named Best Sugar Refinery in the Customs Union 2012. The first place was shared with Slutsk Sugar Refinery while the sugar producers from Skidel and Zhabinka shared the second position.
In an interview with the Economy of Belarus Magazine Director of Gorodeya Sugar Refinery Mikhail Krishtapovich reviews the current state of affairs in the domestic sugar industry, analyzes its prospects on new sales markets and ponders on the competitive edge of the industry in general and Gorodeya Sugar Refinery in particular.
…Getting there is easy: After passing Baranovichi on M1, take a turn toward Ivatsevichi, then toward the town of Kosava. The latter is home to many beautiful specimens of architecture – Trinity Cathedral, the whiteblue St. Antony Church, and a marvel of Gothic architecture, Kosava Castle of the Puslowskis with narrow vaulted windows, crenellated towers, and its framework rising like an apparition as you leave Kosava.
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