After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than have any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first and only directly elected president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means and a centralized economic system. Government restrictions on political and civil freedoms, freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion have remained in place.
Eastern Europe, east of Poland
timber, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay
Population - distribution
a fairly even distribution throughout most of the country, with urban areas attracting larger and denser populations
Russian (official) 70.2%, Belarusian (official) 23.4%, other 3.1% (includes small Polish- and Ukrainian-speaking minorities), unspecified 3.3% (2009 est.)
MINSK (capital) 1.915 million (2015)
- Conventional long form
- Republic of Belarus
- Conventional short form
- Local long form
- Respublika Byelarus'/Respublika Belarus'
- Local short form
presidential republic in name, although in fact a dictatorship
- Geographic coordinates
- 53 54 N, 27 34 E
- Time difference
- UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt
As part of the former Soviet Union, Belarus had a relatively well-developed, though aging industrial base; it retained this industrial base - which is now outdated, energy inefficient, and dependent on subsidized Russian energy and preferential access to Russian markets - following the breakup of the USSR. The country also has a broad agricultural base which is largely inefficient and dependent on government subsidies. After an initial burst of capitalist reform between 1991 and 1994, including privatization of smaller state enterprises and some service sector businesses, creation of institutions of private property, and development of entrepreneurship, Belarus' economic development greatly slowed. About 80% of all industry remains in state hands, and foreign investment has been hindered by a reluctance to welcome private investment absent joint ownership or affiliation with the state. A few businesses, which had been privatized after independence, were renationalized. State banks account for 75% of the banking sector.
- External debt stocks
- US$ 37,875,626,000
- Total tax rate (% of commercial profits)
- Real Interest Rate
- Manufacturing, value added (% of GDP)
- Current Account Balance
- US$ -1,703,200,000
- Labor Force, Total
- Employment in Agriculture
- Employment in Industry
- Employment in Services
- Unemployment Rate
- Imports of goods and services
- US$ 29,767,764,647
- Exports of goods and services
- US$ 29,723,610,762
- Total Merchandise Trade
- FDI, net inflows
- US$ 1,244,400,000
- Commercial Service Exports
- US$ 6,786,800,000
grain, potatoes, vegetables, sugar beets, flax; beef, milk
metal-cutting machine tools, tractors, trucks, earthmovers, motorcycles, synthetic fibers, fertilizer, textiles, refrigerators, washing machines and other household appliances
- machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
- Russia 39.1%, UK 11.1%, Ukraine 9.5%, Netherlands 4.3%, Germany 4.1% (2015)
- mineral products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, metals
- Russia 56.6%, China 7.9%, Germany 4.6% (2015)
- Country Risk Rating
- A high-risk political and economic situation and an often very difficult business environment can have a very significant impact on corporate payment behavior. Corporate default probability is very high.
- Business Climate Rating
- The business environment is very difficult. Corporate financial information is rarely available and when available usually unreliable. The legal system makes debt collection very unpredictable. The institutional framework has very serious weaknesses. Intercompany transactions can thus be very difficult to manage in the highly risky environments rated D.
- Strategic location between Russia and European Union and a well-developed transport system
- Relatively well trained and skilled labor
- Political stability
- High energy, economic, and financial dependence on Russia
- Omnipresent control by State over the economy and very slow implementation of reforms
- Danger of liquidity crisis
- Difficult business climate (high level of corruption, legal system provides little protection)
Activity in Belarus, extremely dependent on Russia and to a lesser extent, on Ukraine, will continue to suffer in 2016 from the economic and political situation in those countries. The fall in oil prices is also likely to restrict activity in its refining sector.
The continuing lack of investment and demand likely to remain weak in its leading export markets (Russia, Ukraine, EU), is impacting on its industrial sector (nearly a quarter of GDP), dominated by agri-food production (meat, milk), petrochemicals and machines.
Exports are unlikely to make a positive contribution to growth because of the weakness of domestic demand and the low prices of its leading export products (potash and oil). The growth of internal demand is likely to slow under the weight of reduced remittances from expatriates (mostly working in Russia), a more restrictive budgetary policy, as well as rising unemployment and higher prices. Inflation should remain high in 2016, under the knock-on of the depreciation of the Belarus ruble. Budgetary problems could also force the government to raise the prices of certain public services.
The budget deficit should increase slightly in 2016. State revenues, dependent on the oil and gas sector (the country does not produce oil but imports it from Russia for refining and re-exporting), are likely to continue suffering the repercussions of low oil product prices. On top of this, the economic contraction could also reduce tax revenues. The slowing in social spending and wage growth expected in 2016 is unlikely to be enough to offset the decline in revenues. Quasi-fiscal operations (State guaranteed loans estimated at over 5% of GDP) will also continue to burden the public finances.
The current account deficit could decline somewhat in 2016 as a result of weaker domestic demand which will limit imports. Export earnings are likely to remain low, thanks to the low price of potash (the country’s leading export product) and of oil, as well as the lack of vitality in Belarus’s leading markets (CIS and EU).
The current account deficit will continue to generate downwards pressure on the Belarus currency, with an exchange rate that is very closely dependent to that of the Russian ruble, itself strongly linked with the price of oil.
The country is in receipt of financial aid from the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC) as well as from Russia and is negotiating a new loan agreement with the IMF. Its financial situation, however, remains extremely precarious with very small currency reserves (less than one month of imports in 2015).
Without any firming up in oil prices, the pressure on the Russian and Belarus rubles is set to continue, thereby worsening Belarus’s financial imbalances. A further devaluation, following that of January 2015 (30%), cannot be excluded for 2016. It would increase the rate of the escalation of public debt, mainly (80%) denominated in foreign currencies. The lack of transparency of the banks (mostly State owned) and the practice of directed loans makes it difficult to assess the health of the banking system. Its situation, which would seem fragile, could worsen as a result of the economic slowdown and the depreciation of the currency.
Despite his opposition to the annexation of Crimea, Belarus President A. Loukachenko, remains on good terms with Russia bearing in mind the economic, financial and strategic links (trade, oil and gas supplies, investment) between the two countries.
In terms of domestic politics, A. Loukachenko was re-elected for a fifth term in October 2015 with over 80% of the votes. Despite irregularities, the voting process was peaceful, persuading the EU to suspend for four months its sanctions imposed on a number of Belarus citizens.
Social tensions have for a number of years been assuaged by regular wage rises and other spending guaranteeing increasing purchasing power. A continuing economic crisis would endanger that policy and could result in growing social tensions. Despite a degree of progress, Belarus retains its low ranking in the World Bank’s governance indicators, in particular in terms of voice and accountability (190th out of 215), regulatory quality (180th) and control of corruption (110th).