Belarus in World Rankings: Strong Potential, Weak Performance
The most well-known international indexes show that Belarus is maintaining the potential of its people, although its governance, economy, political and economic freedoms remain at a very low level.
Belarus has had a rather good showing in the UNDP Human Development Index, the Legatum Prosperity Index and the Ease of Doing Business Index.
But the results of Economic Freedom Index, Press Freedom Index, Freedom House Index, Global Peace Index, Corruption Perception Index and Sovereign Credit Rating are nothing short of disastrous. In some of them, Belarus finds itself in close company with Third World countries.
Compared to other countries in the region, Belarus usually finds itself ranked above Ukraine or Russia, but lower than Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Below, we compare Belarus' current standing in the world rankings with those of 2010, when Belarus Digest first collected all available ranking data in one article.
Rankings in Which Belarus Had a Good Showing
According to the UNDP Human Development Index, Belarus is a country that enjoys a high level of human development. Belarus occupies the 50th place, with Croatia ranking 47 and recognised as a country with a very high level of development.
This index takes into account life expectancy, education level, and GDP. Belarus looks better than Russia (55th place) and Ukraine (78th position), but is worse off than Poland (39th), Lithuania (41st), and Latvia (44th). Notably, Belarus has actually improved its position since 2010.
The Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures wellbeing and satisfaction with one's life, ranked Belarus 58th while placing Russia at 61st, Ukraine at 64th, Lithuania at 43rd, Latvia at 48th and Poland, with the highest score in the sample, at 34th. All of these countries belong to a single group consisting of nations ranked in an upper-middle range. The Index demonstrates that Belarus has great educational and social capital, while its overall governance and economy are still in bad shape. According to these results, Belarus has moved up in the rankings since 2010.
Belarus occupies the 63rd place in the Ease of Doing Business Index. World Bank Group admits that people can easily start a business, register property or enforce contracts in Belarus, however it remains difficult to pay taxes or obtain a credit. As is in the case of the Human Development Index, Belarus is doing better than Russia and Ukraine, but worse that its neighbours from the European Union. Belarus has worsened its position since 2010.
Rankings in Which Belarus did not Fair Well
According to the Economic Freedom Index, Belarus remains a country with a mostly unfree economy and finds itself in the rankings inbetween Nepal and Ethiopia.
Belarus has severe issues with the rule of law, as well as monetary, investment, and financial freedoms. The Heritage Foundation and the The Wall Street Journal placed Belarus at 150th and Ukraine at 155th, both abysmally low rankings when it comes to overal economic freedom.
All the rest of Belarus’ neighbours appear to have more economic freedom. When compared to the results from previous ratings, Belarus has more or less retained its previous position in the index, acquiring only a few more points. In 2010, Belarus sat at 48.7 and was able to climb slightly up to 50.1 in 2014.
According to Freedom House's criteria, Belarus is an unfree country. Russia has approximately the same ranking, while Ukraine appears to be partly free. According to the 'Freedom in the World 2014' report, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia are free countries. Belarus retained its previous position and has the same freedom rating as China.
Reporters without Borders show that freedom of the press in Belarus (157th place) is on a par with that in Swaziland (156th position) and Pakistan (158th rank). Ukraine occupies the 127th slot and the Russian Federation comes in at 148th place. While Belarus has improved its position since 2010, its EU-member neighbours make its ranking look all the more deplorable as Poland achieved 19th place in the rankings, and Lithuania and Latvia placed 32nd and 37th, respectively.
The Institute for Economics and Peace, one of the Economist's analytical centres, measures the peacefulness of 162 countries. Its Global Peace Index is utilises three main criteria: the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic or international conflict, and the degree of a nation's militarisation. Again, here Belarus has gained some ground since 2010. In the global standings, Belarus found itself ranked 92nd, routinely doing better than either Russia or Ukraine, but worse than its neighbours from the European Union.
Transparency International regularly evaluates countries' perception of the level of corruption and this time around Belarus found itself ranked 123rd, the same as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Togo.
According to expert estimates, Belarus has improved its position since 2010 and remains less corrupt than Russia (127th position) and Ukraine (144th position), but performs poorly when compared to Poland (38th), Lithuania (43th), and Latvia (49th).
Sovereign credit rating is considered by foreign investors an assessment of the investments made in the economy of a particular country. Standard & Poor's assessed Belarus’ local currency rating, foreign currency rating, transferability and convertability to all be a B-. Unfortunately, in this index, Belarus has seen its position to have fallen considerably since 2010.
Where Belarus Gains and Losses
When Compared to 2010, Belarus improved its position in the Human Development Index, Legatum Prosperity Index, Press Freedom Index, Global Peace Index and Perception of Corruption Index. This is evidence that quality of life remains one of the primary tasks that the authorities work on, as they see economic stability as a means to legitimise their rule.
Belarus retained its previous position in the Economic Freedom Index and Freedom House Index, which shows that Lukashenka's regime is still opposed to political and economic freedom.
Belarus’ position in the Ease of Doing Business Index and Sovereign credit rating has worsened since 2010 for a number of reasons. Namely, the authorities have failed to implement a successful economic growth policy and do not see business development as a way out of their ongoing economic crisis.
It should be noted that despite these positive indictators in some of the indexes, Belarus’ ascent in the rankings in some studies may also be linked to the worsening of other countries’ positions, or to changes in research methodology. The same logic may apply to the worsening of some of Belarus’ positions.
At any rate, the rankings show that Belarus has great potential, but in the end continues to suffer from inefficient governance.
Celebrating Lukasheka’s 20th Aniverary in Power, Liberation from Nazis – Belarus State TV Digest
Last week on Belarus state TV was a week of historical anniversaries.
The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus, Belarusian Independence Day and, finally, the 20th anniversary of election of Alexander Lukashenka all were presented to demonstrate the success of Belarus' current leadership.
Commenting upon the situation in Ukraine, journalists often made reference to the situation using terms like “slavic unity”, “refugees from Ukraine”, but also readily noted Kiev’s reluctance to paying off arrears to Gazprom.
20 years ago, on 10 July Lukashenka became the President of Belarus. Casting their votes for Lukashenka, “Belarusians voted for sovereign politics and independence”, one state TV journalist narrates. According to the report, people voted then for "real independence” not the one just on paper.
The reporter covering the story also commented upon the political rivals back in 1994: Viačaslau Kiebič, the one “from nomenclature”, Zianon Pazniak, a “nationalist” from the Belarusian Popular Front, and finally, Alexander Lukashenka, a “deputy from the people, without a party affiliation’. “Today they call him a “pro-Belarusian candidate”, then he was just “ours”.
The mysterious victory of Lukashenka. The coverage states that Lukashenka’s victory remained an interesting phenomenon up until the present day. He explained further that the 1990s was a time of “romantics and euphoria”, a period that lasted only until the first serious economic difficulties arose.
These times lasted up until 1994 and had their own colourful charm, with the reporter reminiscing about “coupons for pasta and vodka, delays in paying salaries, a soap opera of endless disagreements in the Parliament”. Lukashenka offered solutions to these problems and won the support of Belarusians.
The coverage also commented upon the opposition from the 1990s and positively evaluated the shift towards a “monolyth in politics” as it gave Belarus a chance for its economy to develop.
Closing, the reporter concluded that today Belarus remains a place where bilinuguism and inter-confessional peace are a norm.
Symbolic opening of a war museum with Putin. Just a day before Belarus' Independence Day, both Alexander Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin opened the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Minsk.
During the opening ceremony, the Belarusian leader spoke about the importance of the unity of the Soviet republics that fought together against the Nazis. According to Lukashenka, instead of the West showing their gratitude for their Soviet ally's sacrifices, “we see a dictate of sanctions”.
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, praised the bright future of Belarus-Russia co-operation within the Eurasian Union.
Kupalle: uniting the Slavic people. Belarusians again gathered in the village Aleksandryja in the Shklov district (Lukashenka's home region) to celebrate the midsummer festival, Kupalle. Lukashenka also attended the event and in his speech explained what coming back there meant to him personally. He also argued that the situation in “brotherly Ukraine” should be resolved as soon as possible.
In their coverage, state TV narrates that festivals such as Kupalle in Aleksandryja and Slavianski Bazaar in Viciebsk had played an important role in history – they reunited the Slavic world. This is particularly important, according to the report, after the events in Ukraine.
According to an old legend, the main goal of the Kupalle festivities was to find a fern flower and, should one be successful, it would bring them happiness and prosperity. “We would like to believe that it will bring peace and prosperity to all Slavic nations", the reporter concludes.
Less help from the state for Belarusian enterprises' modernisation. At a special meeting, headed by the prime-minister Michail Miasnikovič, officials discussed new approaches for pushing for modernisation. The country is in need of a fairly comprehensive “complex modernisation, and the management must be responsible for their companies’ efficiency”.
“At present, every company should increase its efficiency on its own”, the reporter clarified. “It is time that the state alone stops financing modernisation, but should just focus on supporting the most highly prioritised enterprises”, he concluded.
A new task for the Belarusian army – increase its mobility. Lukashenka visited the 103rd Independent Guard Mobile Brigade of the special operations forces of the Belarusian army. The coverage notes that the Belarusian leader personally evaluated the battle readiness of the brigade.
During his visit, Lukashenka argued that Belarus would need to acquire more equipment for mobilisation "in case we would have to wage a war on our own". He also visited a local canteen which can feeds up to 240 soldiers. The reporter covering the event was keen to point out that all of its equipment was made in Belarus and all of the food came from local producers. The head of state ordered a meal in the military canteen.
The Association Agreement is signed, but is all of the EU ready to support Ukraine? “Although the EU summit was called historical, it was no bombshell”, states a state TV journalist analysing the event. Following up on this thought, the reporter asks rhetorically whether all of the EU was really ready to support Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.
The coverage described the ceremony for signing the Association Agreement as pompous and full of optimism. The EU leadership pointed out throughout the event how historical it was. This co-operation with Brussels will, however, cost Kiev $8bn, which the country will lose due to Russian taxation on goods exported from Ukraine. “Experts explain that Russia will have to protect its market from re-exported European goods", the journalist explains.
In the same report the journalist also discussed Kiev’s arrears in payments to Gazprom, the controversies surrounding the South Stream and the issue of refugees from Ukraine. She cited Vladimir Chizhov, the Russian Ambassador to the EU, who stated that “the project does not satisfy those in the West who want to take control of the gas transportation system in Ukraine”. “But thinking Europeans understand that the South Stream will serve in the interests of energy security of the EU”, reporter emphasises.
Refugees from Ukraine are invading the EU countries? In another report, state TV reports that according to the European agency in charge of refugees, ten times more Ukrainian immigrants have come to the EU after "the coup d’etat in Kyiv". Štefan Füle, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, confirmed the arrival of a number of refugees from the east of Ukraine.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials available on the web site of Belarusian State Television 1 (BT1). Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.