Belarus’ 2014 budget: full of aspirations
Budget revenues in 2014 were projected based on the actual revenues in 2013. The government counts on additional revenues from the population and private sector, as well as on changes in the international trade situation. Overvalued revenues from international trade may result in significant adjustments to the budget in mid-2014.
On December 12th, the 2014 draft budget was adopted in the first reading.
The government’s vision for 2014 is a deficit-free state budget, worth circa $11bln. Budget revenues in 2014 were projected based on the actual revenues in 2013. In 2014, budget revenues are projected at 19% higher than in 2013.
Analysing the draft budget helps to identify economic sectors on which the government is most reliant for increasing budget revenues in 2014. These include beefing up excise duties on alcohol and tobacco and excise tax on fuel. A fee for using private vehicles will be introduced with the target of raising $170m. In addition, a recycling fee for imported foreign cars will be introduced.
For 2014, projections for public property revenues were unchanged, implying that this economic sector would not see considerable performance improvements.
The main problem with the 2014 budget is that it has some overly ambitious estimates. For instance, the draft budget envisages sales of 6.6m tons of potash fertilizer at circa $306 per ton, which will be quite a feat.
The draft budget for 2014 also increases the burden on the population, which, coupled with restrictions on wage growth, might result in changes in consumption patterns. For reference, in 2013, budget revenue shortfalls were estimated circa $2bln and required substantial adjustments to the budget.
The government has once again filled the budget with hopes. If the Belarusian ruble is not devalued, the 2014 budget revenues will be downwardly revised a few times and by the year-end, a deficit is likely to be reported.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.