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Belarus by World Standards

An overview of the position of Belarus in various international rankings suggests that the human potential of the country is relatively good, with high education standards.  Belarus is also business-friendly in some important respects.

However, political and personal freedoms are...


Image by Nils Geylen

An overview of the position of Belarus in various international rankings suggests that the human potential of the country is relatively good, with high education standards.  Belarus is also business-friendly in some important respects.

However, political and personal freedoms are extremely constrained by international standards. Belarus ranks among some of the worst offenders in the world for non-respect freedom of expression in particular. Crucially, its ranking in these areas has only been in decline over the last few years.

Political Climate

Freedom House's Freedom in the World is an annual publication which includes a review of political and civil liberties in 193 countries. In 2012, Belarus is placed in the category of “not free” countries: that is, one where basic civil liberties and political freedoms are denied (the categories are free, partly free and not free). In the category of "political rights" Belarus receives the worst ranking of 7 points, and in the category "civil liberties" only 6 points.

Only 15 of 193 countries surveyed have such poor rankings, and Belarus’ score puts it in the company of Burma, Chad, Cuba and South Ossetia. Other post- Soviet countries’ scores include: Ukraine, 3.5 (partly free); Turkmenistan, 7 (not free); Moldova, 3 (partly free),Georgia, 3.5 (partly free) and Lithuania, 1(free). Belarus’ ranking has remained the same for several years.

Transparency International’s Corruption Index (143 of 182)  measures a population’s perception of levels of corruption in their country’s public sector. It draws on independent surveys about bribery, kickbacks, and embezzlement, among other factors. Belarus ranks 143 out of 182 countries in the 2011 review. Its ranking is tied with Russia, among others, while Ukraine and all of Central Asia (except Kazakhstan) score worse. Belarus’ score in 2011 is down four places on its 2009 placing.

Freedom of Expression

According to Freedom House’s Press Freedom Index 2012 (193 of 197), Belarus is one of the five worst press abusers out of those 197 surveyed, and comes just below Iran at #193 from the top. This is a decline of several places compared with its rating of 188 in 2009. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are the only post-Soviet nations with a worse ranking, while Russia takes place 172, Kyrgyzstan 155 and Ukraine 130. The ranking covers print, broadcast and internet media, and examines the legal media environment, political influences on reporting, and economic pressures on dissemination of news.

Reporters Without Borders’ (168 of 179) press freedom index 2011-2012 lists Belarus as one of the countries that have become “much more repressive”, and it drops 14 places on the previous year (due largely to the post 2010 election crackdown).

Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom on the Net ranking rate Belarus’ internet as "not free". Only 12 other countries receive this lowest category rating. While acknowledging the government’s encouragement of greater internet use among Belarusians for commercial purposes, Freedom House notes the increasing use of internet surveillance technologies. The ratings are based on examination of the following three broad categories: obstacles to access, limits on content, and violation of user rights. Georgia enjoys "free" internet status, while Azerbaijan and Russia are rated "partly free". Estonia, the USA and Germany take the top three places for freest internet environments.

Economic Climate

Economic Freedom (153 of 179) The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have published an annual overview of economic freedoms across the world for over 10 years. For 2012, Belarus received an overall assessment of 49 points and occupies 153rd place from the top out of a total of 179 countries surveyed.

It comes second lowest out of all European countries, and is one of only two European countries to be labelled economically “repressed” by the index (the other is Ukraine, at #163). The ranking is based on measures such as labour freedom, corruption, and property rights and open markets. Russia comes 144th. Switzerland and Ireland are the only European countries to make it into the top ten freest.

Sovereign Credit Rating For the first time in its history, Belarus received its credit rating in 2007. Sovereign credit rating is considered by foreign investors as an assessment of investing in economy of a particular state. On 1 July 2009, international rating agency Standard & Poor's announced the sovereign credit rating of Belarus and the future outlook of the country was pronounced ‘negative’. In April 2012, however, Belarus gained ‘stable’ outlook status.

Doing Business (69 of 183) According to the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, Belarus places 69th out of 183 countries. Notably, this is a jump of 22 places compared with Belarus’s 2010 result.. The ease of starting a business is rated particularly well (placing Belarus on a par with Singapore and Saudi Arabia). Although still very low scoring by international standards, Belarus’ ranking when it comes to protecting investors and paying taxes has improved considerably on the previous year.

Holistic Measures

Human Development (68 of 182) The United Nations Development Program ranks countries according to a Human Development Index which measures such things as educational attainment, GDP life expectancy. In 2011, Belarus was ranked in the category of "High Human Development" and occupied 68th position out of 182. Norway has the highest Human Development Index and Niger the lowest.

Global Peace Index (109 of 158) The Institute for Economics and Peace’s Global Peace Index 2012 rates Belarus 109 out of 158 countries. The analysis goes beyond a standard definition of peace, and uses 23 wide-ranging indicators to reach its scores, and these include such things as military expenditure, relationships with neighbours and respect for human rights. Ukraine ranks 71, Moldova – 66, and Poland  – 24, while Russia comes behind Belarus at 153.

The Legatum Prosperity Index (50 of 110) measures eight categories of prosperity, which include health, the economy, personal freedom and security. In the 2011 rankings, Belarus falls in the medium range overall, alongside all other former Soviet states. It comes 50th out of 110 in total, but scores ‘strongly’ in the education and social capital categories.

While it has an average rating for most of the other categories, it receives the worst rating of ‘weak’ (100 points) in the governance category. Latvia and Lithuania have similar overall scores, with Russia and Ukraine coming in lower. Scandinavian countries top the table.


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