The year 2013 was not an easy one for Belarus, with many economic development targets missed. Admittedly, the failures were partially due to the conditions evolving on foreign markets. Fluctuating prices for resources and the falling demand for end products affected the state of affairs in the exportdriven economy.
The situation was quite a challenge for the production sector, which is designed to be the engine of Belarusian export. Therefore, it was not accidental that one of the first government sessions held by the Belarus President in 2014 was dedicated to discussing reasons behind the negative trends and the tasks that have to be accomplished in order to reverse the trends.
In 2012 a program document was adopted in Belarus defining the main targets of the industrial policy for the period till 2020.
The program is built around structural changes of the production sector. The state management of the production sector has to improve, qualitybased targets to evaluate the development of the production sector are supposed to be introduced. The program also envisages manufacturing cooperation with other countries, the choice of growth points and promising market niches.
The program outlines conceptual guidelines for accomplishing these tasks. In practice the tasks will be fulfilled by adopting annual forecasts of the social and economic development of the production sector and its branches. Analyzing the progress that has been made since the program was adopted, we see several successful accomplishments.
It has become obvious today that the global economic slump has affected the Belarusian mechanical engineering industry. In a period like that, research and development comes to the forefront. The world’s leading companies usually increase spending on research and development in order to come up with new products and solutions that will be extremely popular when the economy starts recovering, which will allow industry leaders to capitalize on their know–how.
Are domestic producers ready to face this tough market competition? In the given situation, Belarusian scientists and developers rely on innovations, effective teamwork of researchers and engineers as part of joint research and sci–tech programs, as well as on breakthrough know–how, ready–made solutions and new component parts in line with global trends.
The manufacturing industry is the biggest economic sector of Grodno Oblast. Suffice it to say that the local industry generates 10.1% of the country’s industrial output and 80% of the region’s budget revenues. The manufacturing industry of Grodno Oblast incorporates 230 major companies.
The industry accounts for the bulk of export revenues, gives jobs to many thousands of people and contributes to the well–being of all residents of the region. This is why the efficient operation of the industrial sector is always in the focus of the municipal and regional authorities.
Business is the backbone of economic growth of all developed countries as it generates more than half of their GDP. Belarus cannot boast the same results yet, but the Belarusian government considers business as the most important driver of economic growth. The country has great opportunities and a big potential to promote small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
It is hard to imagine a successful 21stcentury company that does not have cuttingedge equipment and technology at the heart of its strategy. Constant technological upgrade is the only way to stay competitive on the market. Therefore, many domestic companies embraced innovation as a necessity, not simply as a desirable addon. Henkel Bautechnik is no exception.
One of the great things about the domestic housing and public utilities sector is a relatively low cost of housing and utility services and, consequently, their affordability. Although the price for these services is gradually increasing, it is still the lowest compared to Belarus’ eastern and western neighbors: in 2013 households paid only 25% of the real cost of housing and utility services.
At the same time, the housing and public utilities sector, just like any other sector, badly needs resources to expand and renovate its physical infrastructure, implement new technologies, resolve the human resources issue and improve the quality of services. These reforms cannot be resourced solely by the overnight abolition of all housing and utility subsidies. The reasons are many, including social ones. The Belarus President has ordered to set up a special working group led by the Chairman of the State Control Committee to come to grips with the situation in the housing and public utilities sector.
What is going on “inside” the sector? How is it changing and how will it increase its efficiency? These and other questions were addressed by the Economy of Belarus Magazine to Housing and Public Utilities Minister of the Republic of Belarus Andrei Shorets.
Innovative industrial clusters are among the most efficient and well proven instruments of enhancing economic competitiveness. Since this term was coined and introduced by the scientific community in 1990, quite a number of countries have taken advantage of this form of economic activity. However, Belarus is just at the very beginning of this process.
The bulk of investments that came to Belarus from the European Union in 2013 were provided by Great Britain. The United Kingdom is also in the top ten of Belarus’ trading partners in Europe. BelarusUK trade has approached $1.5 billion.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Sergei Aleinik tells the Economy of Belarus Magazine whether Belarusian products are to the British taste, how transport vehicles can contribute to the economic cooperation between Minsk and London, whether BelBioGrad resident companies will speak British English and why the government should be involved in matters of science after all.
Banking is among Belarus’ most efficient economic sectors. Despite the challenging macroeconomic environment and the tough monetary policy, this business remains profitable. Bankers cannot afford making losses because this would jeopardize their ability to fulfill their payment obligations. However, the profits of Belarusian banks rose by merely 14.4% in JanuaryNovember 2013 over the same period in 2012 and made up Br5.6 trillion. Considering the economic situation in Belarus and in the countries, our major trading partners, this year will obviously pose new challenges for the banking sector. The biggest of them will be restrictions on lending and poor financial performance of domestic companies. Chairman of the Board of VTB Bank (Belarus) Vladimir Ivanov gave an interview to the Economy of Belarus Magazine to share his views on the changing interest rates and the currency exchange rate, to compare the working style in the banking sector of Russia and Belarus and to offer recommendations on the personal finance management.
In autumn 2011, the multiplicity of exchange rates that had appeared earlier that year was eliminated. Official rates established by the National Bank and the extra session’s rates were equated, that is to say the common rate was established. Since then Belarus has had the exchange regime of “managed flotation”. The main monetary policy guidelines of the Republic of Belarus indicate that the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble is based on the demand and supply of foreign currency. The National Bank conducts restricted interventions exclusively to mitigate sharp fluctuations of the exchange rate.
Economists are split over when leasing first appeared. Some say that leasing emerged in 1877, when the term “leasing” was officially mentioned for the first time. Back then the U.S. company Bell decided to lease their phones instead of selling them. Other experts believe that the first people to use leasing were ancient Sumerians. The clay plates found in the ancient historical region of Sumer in 2000 BC contain the information about the leasing of agricultural tools, land and cattle. However, one thing is clear – leasing has a longstanding history. Aristotle once wrote: “On the whole, you find wealth much more in use than in ownership.” In fact, the history has many interesting examples of leasing. However, the first company to make leasing its core business (United States Leasing Corporation) was set up in San Francisco in 1952 by Henry Schoenfeld who came to be known as the grandfather of the leasing business. The systemic approach gave a powerful impetus to this business and by the mid1960s lease agreements in the United States were estimated at $1 billion. By the end of the 1980s the market expanded to exceed $110 billion, up more than 100 times over a 25year period. The Convention on International Financial Leasing was adopted in 1988 thus officially recognizing leasing as an independent financial institution. At present leasing transactions in developed countries account for 2530% of investments.
The domestic securities market is still in its nascent state, which explains why it is going through so many challenges. The securities market started taking shape in Belarus on the back of market reforms in the early 1990s. Back then Belarus developed the legal framework, financial institutions and the regulatory system to facilitate the development of the securities market. The government is fully aware of the great prospects of this market. To unlock its true potential, the government has passed the securities market development program for 20112015. The objectives for the securities market have been also formalized by the joint action plan of the Government and the National Bank to conduct structural reforms and enhance the competitiveness of the economy. These two documents were used as the foundation to draft new laws. These laws are expected to change the rules of the game on the securities market by giving it more leeway. The work to create the common financial market in the Single Economic Space will also have its impact on the domestic securities market.
Seven years ago the National Bank of Belarus launched a project that was unheard of in the postSoviet space, i.e. a single payment and information system designed to become a handy tool helping Belarus residents pay all their utility bills in a onestop shop. With SPIS (also known as Raschet) in operation, the Belarusians can now pay their bills in any bank in any region of the country and even abroad using their online banking systems. SPIS continues to grow with more participants joining every month and more services that can be paid for via the system. Oleg Veremeichik, head of the SPIS department of the National Bank of Belarus, tells us about the benefits SPIS offers now and the benefits it will offer in the future.
In the modern world it is hard to find a human activity that has nothing to do with digital systems and devices. Digital components or radio electronics units and modules are present in any end product. Electronics is an inalienable part of the management of the state, the economy and defense systems. Therefore, it is quite obvious that many countries pay close attention to the development of their electronic industries for the sake of maintaining a steady pace of the economic growth, the national security and decent living standards. The implementation of a number of joint programs within the framework of the Union State of Belarus and Russia will allow the two countries to advance this branch of economy to a new level.
The fuel that used to dominate the energy consumption mix, gradually gave way to easytouse liquid and gas fuels. However, today this fuel is in the focus again. According to the recently developed Energy Security Concept, peat and other local fuels are among the main factors contributing to higher reliability and efficiency of the country’s energy system and the entire economy.
Any tourist visiting a foreign country will not miss an opportunity to learn about local customs and traditions. Perhaps the easiest way to get familiar with a local culture is to try local food. For the time being Belarus has few restaurant chains specializing in local cuisine with traditional decor. In 2014, the Year of Hospitality, the country will welcome many tourists as Minsk is getting ready to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in May. Apart from the spectacular sport event, the guests should also be able to enjoy tasty meals. What national dishes can surprise our guests and how can we popularize the Belarusian cuisine?
The Metropolitan Opera in New York, La Scala in Milan, the Palais Garnier in Paris, Covent Garden in London, the Vienna State Opera, the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, the Mariinsky Theater… and, of course, the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of Belarus. Like other countries, we are proud of our biggest theater. Today the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater of Belarus is an outstanding team of talented and passionate artists who keep pace with the times. The theater that celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2013 is still full of vigor. The public interest in the theater never abates, the team has a busy tour schedule, and its repertoire is regulalry updated. The theater makes no secret of its success formula: “You should never be complacent. You should always be on the move searching for and discovering new things”.
In five years, in 2019, Brest will celebrate its onethousandth anniversary. The date is honorable, but the city looks young and fresh.
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