Belarus Country Report Mar17 - March, 2017

April 4, 2017

This is going to be a tough year for Belarus. The economy is still in recession and should be growing modestly, but pressure from Russia due to a row over energy subsidies means it is not.

The immediate crisis with Russia maybe receding after president Alexander Lukashenko met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg on April 6. Following the meeting the Kremlin said the substantive parts of the disagreement had been solved, although it remains to be seen if Belarus will pay more for its gas. However, as Putin’s goal was to bring Minsk back into its sphere of influence and given Lukashenko probably burned up all the good will he had accumulated with the EU following an authoritarian crackdown on country-wide protests a week earlier, it seems that Putin will gain his immediate goal.

With some $3bn of debt to repay this year and only $4.2bn in the bank Belarus is in a financial corner. The IMF have offered a $3bn standby program, but Minsk is reluctant to make the required reforms. The Eurasian Economic Union crisis fund has a $2bn program in place but has only paid out $800mn so far.

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