Investing in Belarus: a story of Lithuanian businessmen

While the governments of Belarus and Lithuania continue to clash over the construction of the Astraviec nuclear power plant, Lithuanian investors in Belarus are continuing to operate normally. Lithuanian businessmen became the largest Western investors in Belarus, adding more than €80 mln to the Belarusian economy in 2015.

Investments remain at a high level, although several Lithuanian companies have abandoned their projects because of the Belarusian economic crisis. Moreover, the poor political reputation of the Belarusian authorities still discourages Western businessmen from investing.

So many businesses that are ran from home also now use a virtual office as it gives a greater level of privacy. We have used this virtual office address in Manchester as it was for a business in Manchester, and it works just great so a good example of what to look for.

Meet Lithuania, the biggest Western investor in Belarus

It seems that Belarus has never enjoyed a good reputation among foreign investors. While officials continue to harp on the need to attract foreign investments, investment figures remain low, falling slightly since 2013. If in 2013 Belarus received $2.1 bn in foreign direct investments, over the first six months of 2016 Belarus raised only $950 mln, according to the Belarusian Ministry of Economy.

In December 2016, Kiryl Rudy, Ambassador of Belarus to China, published an article arguing that foreign investors are fleeing from Belarus and the government needs to change its attitude towards investors. Rudy previously served as the president’s economic advisor and remains one of few openly pro-reform officials of Lukashenka’s regime.

According to official data, more than 60% of investments came to Belarus from Russia and Cyprus, where many Russian and Belarusian businessmen have registered companies. Thus, excluding Russia and Cyprus, Lithuania is the main foreign investor in Belarus, investing more than Dutch, Estonian, and Austrian companies combined.

According to Rudy, in 2011-2015 the five largest investors (such as the Austrian Kronospan or the Dutch Heineken) accounted for more than 40% of total investments. This underlines Lithuania’s role: specific investments are not necessarily large, but they are numerous, pointing to a long-term rather than situational interest. Belarus and Lithuania have already held 12 bilateral economic forums.

Mapping Lithuanian investments in Belarus

For Lithuanian businessmen, Belarus is not the worst option for investment, as they understand Belarusian culture and mentality. As a former Lithuanian Ambassador to Belarus Evaldas Ignatavičius stated in 2016, ‘free niches in the Belarusian economy attract Lithuanian business’. Moreover, the Lithuanian domestic market has a rather limited population (3 mln) only half again as large as Minsk’s (2 mln). Notably, Minsk is the nearest city to Vilnius with a population of more that one million people.

Moreover, as the Lithuanian political scientist Vytis Jurkonis noted to Belarus Digest, ‘due to to EU technical regulations, it is much more convenient to open a factory in Belarus that in Lithuania, not to mention the cheaper labour force there. The geographical proximity and historical ties also play an important role’.

In 2013, another Lithuanian political scientist (and now MP), Laurynas Kasčiūnas, said that ‘Every second rich Lithuanian has business in Belarus.’ This appears to be the truth: in Belarus, there are 500 companies with Lithuanian capital. The largest investments are concentrated in several areas.

Retail. Lithuanian companies own OMA, a chain of construction materials stores, which employs around three thousand people, as well as the food chain Mart Inn, known for frequently using the Belarusian language in its shops.

Woodworking. The Lithuanian companies SBA and Vakaru Medienos Grupe produce furniture in Belarus, including for Ikea. Vakaru Medienos Grupe currently works in three Belarusian towns: Mahiliou, Barysau and Lahojsk, while SBA operates only in Mahiliou.

Food products. Two daughter companies of Arvi ir Ko are engaged in raising turkeys; they also own a factory processing livestock waste in Hrodna region. Meanwhile, owner of KG Group Tautvydas Barštys produces feed additives. In 2015 the company sold its products for about $15 mln, according to its website.

Energy. Modus Grupe, in addition to selling motor vehicles and establishing car parks, develops alternative energy sources in Belarus. In 2016 it launched one of the largest solar power plants in Eastern Europe. However, according to information given to Belarus Digest, the two countries are currently rethinking their cooperation in energy because of the Astraviec conflict, and may end all projects in this area.

Despite the activity of Lithuanian business, not all investment projects have become a reality. Last year the company Oil Pack Invest turned down the idea of building a waste recycling plant in Babrujsk, and the company Vicunai decided against establishing a fish processing plant near Minsk.

Obstacles to Lithuanian investments

It comes as no surprise that many are reluctant to invest in a country facing its third year of a recession. However, some businesses fear not only the economic crisis, but also pressure from the authorities.

In April 2016, the head of the Lithuanian confederation of employers Danas Arlauskas told Delfi News Agency that ‘Belarus remains a peculiar market – without the approval and support from the authorities one can lose a lot there.’ Foreign investors have to somehow communicate with authorities of a country that occupies 107th place in the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. According to Vytis Jurkonis, ‘unpredictable decisions by official Minsk, when some businessmen (or their lawyers) end up in jail without due process or the investment is simply “lost” remains a significant obstacle’.

Moreover, Lithuanian businessmen may be afraid of becoming political pawns. According to information published by the Polish Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), in 2012 the Belarusian Presidential Administration summoned foreign investors to explain that they must speak out against sanctions against Belarus, otherwise the Belarusian authorities would complicate their activities within the country.

Although Belarusian-European relations have improved, Belarusian-Lithuanian relations have conversely deteriorated. The governments of the two countries clash over the nuclear power plant being built in Belarus, and bilateral economic forums lack the previous blessing of the Belarusian and Lithuanian authorities.

While in 2013 and 2014 the prime ministers of both countries attended the Belarusian-Lithuanian economic forums, in 2015 and 2016 the level of representation of government officials decreased. The Belarusian delegation in 2016 was headed by the Deputy Minister of Economy. This may have changed not only because of the clash over Astraviec, but also due to personal changes in the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, the organiser of the forum, which lost some people connected with its previous president Bronislovas Lubys, who wielded significant political influence.

As a result, Lithuanian businessmen have lost the leverage brought by the good relationship between the governments of Belarus and Lithuania. Currently, they are using international financial institutions as an instrument to make their investments more safe. For example, Modus Group cooperates with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which provided a loan for the construction of the solar power plant. Thus, if Belarusian authorities put pressure on the Modus Group, it could also strain their relations with the EBRD.

All this shows that there is a lack of trust between Lithuanian businessmen and the Belarusian authorities. Nevertheless, ‘external factors and rhetoric, or even the so called restrictive measures, very rarely play a role’, according to Vytis Jurkonis, ‘businessmen are (and will continue) to do business, despite the political climate.’ Even with its problems, Belarus remains a good place for Lithuanian businessmen.




Seviarynets Free, Belarus Free Theatre Praised, Rosneft Invests in Belarus – Western Press Digest

After three years of imprisonment with hard labour, notable political prisoner Paval Seviarynets is free. Jailed civil rights activist Ales Byalyatski has been awarded the first ever Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. Russian giant Rosneft making inroads into Belarus, while the Belarus-Russia potash scandal continues.

Belarusian journalist Iryna Khalip and famous British playwright Tom Stoppard were the co-recipients of the 2013 PEN/Pinter Prize. Belarus Free Theatre continues to receive media coverage and positive reviews in the west.

The European Commission denied recent reports that it had improperly provided aid to Belarusian security forces. All this and more in this edition of the Western Press Digest.

 Belarusian journalist receives prestigious PEN prize – Iryna Khalip, a journalist who spoke out and demonstrated against the 2010 presidential elections, received the PEN/Pinter Prize with British Playwright Tom Stoppard. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes that Khalip, a journalist for Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, was beaten and briefly imprisoned before being given a two-year suspended sentence for her participation in the 2010 protests.

The PEN/Pinter prize is annually awarded to a British writer and, as RFE/RL notes, a writer that has faced persecution. According to the Guardian, Tom Stoppard, who nominated Khalip in consultation with English PEN, stated that, “I salute her courage and her example; she is the reporter I wanted to be.” The PEN/Pinter Prize was created in memory of playwright and Nobel laureate Harold Pinter.

Activist Paval Seviarynets released after 3 years in a labour camp – Leader of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, who was arrested for participating in a protest against the December 2010 presidential elections, was released from jail. Seviarynets was arrested and imprisoned on his way to the protests. The Agence France-Presse coverage states that this was Seviarnynets’ second time working in a forced labor camp. He previously endured a two-year sentence in 2005 for protesting the passage of a law that eliminated terms limits for Lukashenka.

Despite his many run-ins with law enforcement agencies and his two stints in labor camps, the activist is said to have told reporters that he considers his work now to, “prepare for a moral revolution.” Seviarynets was detained in 2010 along side other prominent opposition figures, some of whom still remain in detention.

Human Rights Activist Byalyatski receives Havel Human Rights Prize – RFE/RL reports that Ales Byalyatski became the first recepient of the Vaclav Havel Human Rights prize. Byalyatski, who is serving a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence on tax evasion charges, received the honour from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for his “. . . daily struggle against violations of human rights, injustice, arbitrariness and authoritarianism . . .”

These accounts, the authorities alleged, were used to receive funding from international donors. Ales Byalyatski’s wife, Natallya Pinchuk, accepted the honor on his behalf in Strasbourg and made a brief statement before PACE that she accepts the award as a symbol of appreciation for his many years of hard work on behalf of Belarusians. The Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize, named after the famous Czech playwright and former president, is a new annual prize that PACE will give to individuals or groups who defend human rights.

Belarus Free Theatre receives warm welcome and positive reviews – The Belarus Free Theatre troupe, traveling with their performance of Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker by Vladimir Shcherban, has garnered praise. The Herald-Tribune describes the origins of the Belarus Free Theatre project as a group of performers living in exile from their native Belarus due to the persecution they faced at home. The publication notes that several of them have been arrested in the past for their performances.

The Herald-Tribute reports that the piece largely discusses issues faced under the Lukashenka regime through the lens of several short acts dealing with sexual repression. Each publication covering the performances stated that Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker is not a straightforward political commentary, but more about the desire to return and live normal lives in Belarus.

Swede selling teddy bear drop plane, suggests Lukashenka buys it – The plane used in the now infamous teddy bear drop is up for sale on eBay, with the proceeds reportedly to be used to support democracy in Belarus. The BBC reports that Tomas Mazetti recently put up the plane used to drop teddy bears with pro-democracy slogans on eBay. The report also alleges that Mazetti sent an open letter to Belarusian ruler Aleksandr Lukashenka offering him to purchase it in order to help better train Belarus’ air defence systems.

European Commission denies it supports Belarusian police – In response to a recent report in U.K. daily the Telegraph, the European Commission has refuted claims made that British and EU member-state funds inappropriately went to support Belarusian police and border guards. RFE/RL states that while the European Commission did finance the purchasing of new equipment for Belarusian border guards, the funds were used to protect EU borders. New vehicles and night-vision equipment were purchased to stop the smuggling of goods and people across the EU-Belarus border, but the funds reportedly do not help to “enhance the regime.”

Rosneft looks to purchase Belarusian oil refinery – Russian petroleum giant Rosneft has expressed its interest in purchasing the state’s stake in the Belarusian Mozyr oil refinery. In combination with its shares from the Rosneft and Gazpromneft co-owned Slavneft, the Russian companies would have a controlling share. According to the Reuters report, Rosneft head and long-time Putin ally Igor Sechin stated that talks have been underway, but the right deal has not been reached. Sechin has opposed any cuts in whole exports to Belarus in the past, making him an ally of Lukashenka.

The primary reason for the sale of such a lucrative asset is to help boost a troubled Belarusian economy. With Belarus’ coffers running dry, it needs to raise tax revenue to be able to pay its outstanding international debts. Privatisation plans between Russia and Belarus have had a rocky history, but according to the Financial Times Rosneft’s Sechin appears to be providing enough guarantees to Lukashenka to make the sale possible.

Belarusian leadership seeks a respectable exit from potash scandalThe ongoing conflict between Belarus and Russia over the Belarusian Potash Company has seen new developments recently. Lukashenka continues to seek the removal of Uralkali’s major stakeholder and owner, oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, from the company. However, Bloomberg news reports that the charges against CEO Vladislav Baumgertner have been changed from abuse of power to “probably” embezzlement.

The possibility of Russia extraditing Baumgertner would help Lukashenka “save face” according to the New York Times. Still, Lukashenka presses his agenda of restoring the Belarus Potash Company and the resignation or removal of Kerimov from Russian potash producer Uralkali.

Devin Ackles




Belarus Economy in 2012: Low Growth and Fragile Stability

The currency crisis of 2011 has revealed the limits of the Belarusian economic model. On the one hand, it became obvious even to the most conservative government officials that changes in economic policy are required.

On the other hand, the resurgence of oil exports in the first half of 2012 allowed the government to avoid necessary reforms. The economy finishes this year with a low output growth rate, but fragile macroeconomic stability is achieved.

The prospects for 2013, however, do not offer much optimism, at least in terms of growth performance.

Drivers of economic growth

In 2012, economic growth has slowed down despite rising real incomes of the households. In the second half of the year, this factor superseded net exports as a key driver of GDP growth during the first half. The political promise to increase monthly average wages to $500 lifted real wages – both in national and foreign currency – from spring 2012 on. Real wage growth surpassed the corresponding dynamics of labour productivity.

In order to stifle inflation, the National Bank increased real interest rates, while the government continued stringent fiscal policy.Although poverty dropped to 5.3 per cent (with regional rates about 6.3 per cent), households are hardly above the level of 2007. Yet, average household still spent more than forty per cent of their incomes on food, despite low food inflation in 2012.

Privatisation and investment

Facing a problem of weak growth, authorities announced plans to set up ‘highly productive’ enterprises, but no meaningful steps have been made. In similar fashion, privatisation has not been moved beyond discussions. Authorities seek to maximise privatisation revenues by looking for the most generous bidders, both at home and abroad.

However, re-nationalisation of two major confectionery factories made foreign investors very cautious in entering the Belarusian market.The Investment Forum held in November 2012 has resulted in twelve ‘intensions protocols’ only.

The inflow of foreign direct investment reached the planned figure of $ 1.2 billion before the end of the year. Industry attracted about eleven per cent of that modest amount. This is a low rate to contribute to modernization of the national industry.

China and Russia are two major foreign investors. As for China, it is more concerned with promoting its own exports rather than investing. Russia has helped Belarus to obtain a third instalment of a loan from the Eurasian Economic Community, while the provision of the fourth instalment was negotiated successfully.

Fiscal stringency

Authorities have not abandoned its stringent fiscal policies, though wage increases in the public sector contributed to rising expenditures on healthcare and education. Restrained fiscal policies have been determined by the need to contain inflation, particularly against the background of high inflationary expectations.

It could realistically be expected that the 2012 budget would be at least balanced or turned into a small surplus (below one per cent of GDP). This is due to a relatively modest foreign public debt burden, which is to increase from 2013 onwards.

This increased burden could lead to a budget deficit, given that the structure of revenues and expenditures would remain unchanged, including financing of investment programs. Although the government has substantially cut subsidization of industry and agriculture in 2012, it is likely to remain at the level of 3.5–4 per cent of GDP.

Limits of monetary policy

To a large extent, economic growth has been suffocated by a policy of high interest rates. This policy is adopted to combat high and volatile inflationary expectations, resulting from the 2011 currency crisis. This policy was necessary to stabilise exchange rate, particularly in the first half of the year. However, inflationary expectations have not been reduced as people retain memories of devaluation and accelerated inflation.

Throughout 2012, the majority of banks have been recapitalised to cover the real losses of regulatory capital incurred after the devaluation-fuelled inflation of 2011. Given high interest rates policy, banks have been unwilling to expand credit supply, and to take additional credit risks.

In the environment of credit shortage, only banks with access to cheap capital – particularly subsidiaries of Russian banks – were able to expand their credit portfolios and to increase their shares at the domestic market. The mix of borrowers has also changed towards larger shares of export-oriented companies and households. Both categories of lenders can bear the burden of increased interest rates.

It appears that monetary policy is constrained. On the other hand, the National Bank has to stabilise exchange rate in order to make inflationary expectations less volatile. On the other hand, fluctuating exchange rate helps to balance the current account. In this situation, interest rates policy remains the only efficient tool available to the National Bank, but this policy does not address the problem of inflationary expectations.

Current account and exchange rates

Exchange rate fluctuations are welcome to balance the current account. Over January-July, it reached surplus due to the lasting effects of 2011 devaluation and sales of ‘solvents and thinners’ (oil products in disguise, exported without paying customs duties to the Russian budget).

But from August to October, current account turned to deficit. Apart from the effects of real exchange rate appreciation (as prices in Belarus rise faster than in major trading partners), exports of notorious ‘solvents and thinners’ were stopped, while one of the refineries began to operate at lower capacity due to the scheduled maintenance.

Moreover, deterioration of exports performance is related to slower economic growth.Situation at the foreign currency market mirrored the dynamics of net exports.While over the first half of the year, supply of foreign currency by households exceeded their demand, between June and October, demand exceeded supply.

However, by the end of the year, hoarding of foreign cash has become less attractive than national currency deposits. As for the enterprise segment of the currency market, similar dynamics was observed (with a surplus over the seven months and a deficit in August and September).

Implications of Russia’s membership in the WTO

A strong challenge comes from Russian membership in the WTO. Belarusian producers are likely to face more intense competition at home and abroad. WTO membership makes Belarus a de-facto member, due to the Customs Union with Russia. Heavy trucks production could be adversely affected in the short run, while production of refrigerators, TV-sets, and pharmaceuticals – over the medium to the long run.

Moreover, WTO rules demand to reduce support for agriculture, which is heavily subsidised. In response, Russian government may impose quotas on Belarusian agricultural products. In that case, dairy and meat production would be negatively affected.

The challenge of labour migration

Another important challenge is also related to the eastern neighbour: Russia becomes an increasingly attractive option for temporary labour migration. In 2012, formal employment continued to decrease, and released labour forcehas opted for temporary labour migration. Despite administratively-enforced wage increases, wage gap remains an important push factor of migration. Estimates vary from 400 to 700 thousand temporary labour migrants from Belarus per annum.

At home, a pilot labour force survey provides a very preliminary figure of unemployment, ranging from five to six per cent, which is rather similar to the figure recorded in the 2009 census.

The problem of ‘disappearing labour’ has also been recognised by the authorities. The President demanded to check job leavers at wood processing companies with modernization underway, while the Deputy Prime Minister proposed to charge non-contributors to the State pension fund for visiting hospitals.

Prospects for 2013

A forthcoming year is the time to prepare for repayment of accumulated foreign debts, as debt burden increases considerably in 2014–2015. Current account pressures are likely to remain strong, so depreciation of the national currency seems to be a feasible option. As the economy drifts away from the peak of the political business cycle, expansionary policy is no longer necessary. In this situation, economic growth is likely to be modest.

Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center

This article is a part of a new joint project between Belarus Digest and Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC) – a Minsk-based economic think tank. 




Belarusians Do Not Want Feminism – Digest of Belarusian Analytics

Belarusian analysts discuss recent foreign policy developments, the failure of the government to attract investors and two realities created by the state and independent media in Belarus among other issues. 

In Belarus neither women nor men want feminism. A sociological survey of people’s attitudes towards feminism, undertaken in early August, shows that Belarus has the lowest level of tolerance towards this movement among the CIS countries. Head of the international Association on Gender Perspectives Alyona Alkhovka says that such attitudes of Belarusians towards feminism are caused by the distorted understanding of its core idea, which is differentiation between the biological and the social roles of genders.

Psychologist Vladlen Pisarev, on the other hand, explains the lack of sympathy towards feminists by their apparent harshness and aggression, as well as by the fact that a strong tie between the woman’s biological and social role is the natural order of things.

Diplomatic War Would Erupt Even Without the Teddy Bears. Aleksandr Klaskovsky discusses different sides of the teddy-bear scandal, its background and consequences.The journalist dismisses the version that the incident was planned by the European authorities, suggests that firing the two military generals was in Lukashenka’s plans anyway, and reaches the conclusion that the diplomatic war would have happened even without the teddy-bear scandal.

Lukashenka plays the Makey card.  President Lukashenka has appointed the former head of Presidential administration Vladimir Makey as the new head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite the fact that Makey is on the EU’s black list, experts see this step as an attempt to restart relations with Europe with a new person at the head of the diplomatic corps, and also release the pressure of strengthening geopolitical ties with Russia. But do relations between Belarus and Europe really depend on the figure of the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Meanwhile, the EU is going to work with Makey in the same way as it worked with Sergei Martynov, says the EU diplomacy head’s press-office representative Sebastien Braban.

The teddy bears turned out to be geopolitical bombs – Artyom Shraibman, an author from naviny.by, is analyzing how the teddy bear incident has triggered a serious geopolitical game between Russia and Belarus. The reporter implies that Russia will not hesitate to benefit from the upset of relations between Belarus and Europe, using it to deepen Belarus’ dependence on Russia as its only geopolitical partner left in the international arena.

BISS Trends for January-June 2012 are released. The report covers the following areas: political democratisation and liberalization; economic liberalisation; good governance and the rule of law; geopolitical orientation and cultural policy. While the first three remain mostly stagnant with few changes (e.g. few, though reversible, liberating measures implemented in the fiscal policy, while the old opaque privatisation schemes returned), in the geopolitical sphere noticeable progress has been traced in relations with Russia, while relations with Europe have deteriorated greatly. Last but not least, the cultural sphere demonstrates political polarization and a devaluation of the cultural product as itself.

NGOs and media

ACT presents the 2011 NGO sustainability index of Belarus. An assessment of the sustainability level of NGOs has been carried out in Belarus since 2000. Despite the fact that Belarus currently has the lowest position in the NGO sustainability index among 61 countries, experts point out the great resilience of Belarusian CSOs and their willingness to act. The legal environment and financial sustainability remain the most problematic areas for Belarusian CSOs, while organisational development is the strongest component.

First issue of the LawTrend Monitor is published. The Legal Transformation Centre has issued the first edition of the LawTrend Monitor magazine. The online publication, which is available in Russian and English, is dedicated to problems of freedom of assembly and fair trials in Belarus.

Two media realities: cause or consequence? – Journalist Andrei Alexandrov (mediakritika.by), on the basis of an analysis of state and independent news feeds and newspapers, captures the existence of two media realities which are created respectively by the state and independent media. "The different journalisms" in their focus provide different news and use different principles of information presentation. The expert is concerned about whether the two media realities are a natural by-product of a split society or its root cause.

Half of Belarusians want to leave the country. The recent opinion poll of IISEPS showed that half of the citizens of Belarus want to leave the country. Deutsche Welle interviewed experts who explained that the desire of Belarusians to leave the country is a result of low salaries. The majority of potential migrants would like to move to Germany.

Will Ales Bialiatski get a Nobel Prize? Andrei Eliseev tries to predict the chances of human rights activist Ales Bialiatski winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The expert notes that the list of nominees for the 2012 Nobel includes many famous personalities, but there are some positive factors that increase the chances of the Belarusian for the Award. In particular, chairman of the current Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, knows Ales Bialiatski absentia quite well.

Governance and politics

The investment plans of the government have failed – Dmitry Zayats from Naviny.by presents an overview of the investing situation in Belarus in the first half of 2012, tracking the major investing sources and trends, analyzing their chances of fulfilling the government’s plans. In the article, the experts say that without any changes to the privatization policy and investment climate in the country, there should be no expectation of considerable economic growth.

Top 10 failed investment projects – TUT.BY analyses the most famous cases of failures of big projects with foreign investors in Belarus. The experts come to two obvious conclusions: half of the projects were the victims of a "bubble" that inflated before the global economic crisis, and the Belarusian authorities could not find a common language with other investors.

Government lobbyists do not have reform fever – Despite the deeply-rooted image of the sole ruler standing at the steering wheel of the country, some of the events which have taken place over the last two years in the politico-economic arena show that there are other internal forces close to the government that are able to influence the decision-making process in the country. Nikita Belyaev compares the Belarusian lobby with that of other Eastern European countries, explaining how these differences influence reform movements in the country.

Sergei Matskievich: authorities do not feel any responsibility for the country. Belarus Partisan interviewed the Chairman of the Working Group of the NGOs Assembly, Sergei Matskevich, on the following issues: why there is no "fresh blood" in civil and political activities; why official Minsk hinders the implementation of European programmes of the "Eastern Partnership" and "European Dialogue with Belarus", etc.

What will it take to get people out in the streets? – Tatiana Gurinovich from BISS explains the lack of protest potential in major groups of Belarusian society. The author suggests that the only solution to such situation is diminishing the role of the state in the economy and growth of private sector, which would lead to establishing a fair situation on the market and release it from the government’s control.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.