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Offshore Programming in Belarus: What Capitalism May Start From

Business Week has published an article on IT investment prospectives in Belarus, that almost sounds overoptimistic. What is definitely overoptimistic is the ad-like chart comparing Belarusian economy to its neighbours. Still, everyone involved seems to be aware of the liability of the Belarusian statistics and the risks of doing business, for which Belarus has been infamous in the past.

Coming back to the article itself, IT and offshore programming is indeed one of the few promising sectors in Belarus. It is not dependent on cheap Russian oil supplies (like oil refining) and neither is a legacy of the Soviet era with questionable ability of adaptation to a free market environment (like the Belarusian machine building).

If choosing a sector of the economy that would become the first serious in a market-oriented Belarus, programming and software development would probably be the option. The problem is that there is so far nothing more then that.

French software startup Abaxia was hunting for an offshore research and development site in 2006 when one of its employees suggested taking a look at his native country, Belarus. “I had to get out an atlas to be sure where it was,” recalls Ongan Mordeniz, Abaxia’s R&D chief.

Today, more than half of Abaxia’s employees work in the former Soviet republic of 9.5 million, wedged between Russia and Poland on the EU’s eastern rim. The company and two affiliates employ 85 engineers at a software development center in Minsk near the former Communist Party headquarters, which is now President Alexander Lukashenko’s residence. They’re among an estimated 10,000 professionals working for outsourcing operations in what is now the region’s No. 3 country for such shops, behind Ukraine and Romania, according to the Central and Eastern European Outsourcing Assn.

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