The economic impact of the Russian oil tax manoeuvre
While most observers focus on the current turmoil in global oil markets and the resulting steep price decline, Belarus is currently facing an additional challenge. By the end of 2024 the price of oil imported by Belarus from Russia will increase by 30% due to a reform of oil taxation in Russia – the so-called “Russian tax manoeuvre”. It is clear that the manoeuvre will have a significant impact on the Belarussian economy – especially on its oil refineries which contribute significantly to exports and budget revenues. An analysis by GET suggests that the main impact will stem from increasing prices for fuels on the domestic market as refineries pass on the higher cost of oil which is bad news for private households and companies alike.
Economic growth continues to slow down
Economic growth slowed down significantly due to external factors and amounted to only 1.2% in 2019. High uncertainty about future supply conditions for Russian crude oil and gas, as well as ongoing structural problems, further dampen future growth prospects: the forecasts for 2020 (0.9%) and 2021 (0.5%) remain at a similarly low level.
Belarus-Russia: Is bilateral integration happening?
Since December 2018, Belarus and Russia have been in talks over the prospects of deepening their bilateral integration. The negotiations have taken place behind closed doors and provoked all sorts of rumours and fears in Belarus and the West. While difficult talks continue, the authorities in Minsk stress that national sovereignty is an absolute value and a “red line”.
Improving the business climate – Proposals from business
After the recession in 2015/2016, the Belarusian economy is back on a growth path. Nevertheless, more growth and investment of the private sector is required if Belarus is to catch up with the advanced economies. A joint study of GET Belarus together with three German business associations presents 35 proposals from German businesses on how to improve the business climate and unlock more private investment in Belarus.
External factors dampen economic growth
Due to external factors, the economic development is once again losing momentum. The forecast for 2019 has been revised downwards once again and now stands at only 1.8%. One of the main reasons for this is the pollution of the “Druzhba” oil pipeline, which has a negative impact on the production and export of oil products. The growth forecast for 2020 remains even weaker at 1.3%.
Banking sector weighed down by legacy of state-led lending
Belarus’ banking sector continues its recovery from the 2015-16 recession. Overall credit has again been growing since late 2017, with credit allocation shifting towards households and private enterprises. As the exchange rate stabilized and inflation has come down, local currency interest rates have markedly declined, encouraging a shift of deposits and lending into local currency. At the same time, it is still not clear that the sector is equipped to support further growth in the economy, and the long-overdue structural change towards private enterprises. In this regard, the legacy of delinquent loans of state-owned enterprises still needs to be resolved, and will require broader governance reform in the corporate sector. In this transition capital markets could become a more important source of funds.
Belarus-Russia: where are current tensions leading?
Like many times before, Belarus and Russia are disputing the terms of their special relationship. However, geopolitics and Russia’s oil tax manoeuvre have made current tensions more serious by aggravating fundamental contradictions between the allies. Belarusian- Russian relations await bumpy times ahead, with their future depending on whether Minsk and
Moscow will manage to find a mutually beneficial alliance model in the new geopolitical reality.
Economic recovery continues, but loses steam
The Belarusian economy continued to recover in 2018 (3.0%), with 2.4% growth forecast for 2019. The recovery, however, is cyclical in nature and already beyond its peak. Without any further economic reforms, medium- term growth is likely to remain capped at around 2.0% per annum.