External creditors believe Belarusians should pay more for utilities and public transport
Performance assessment of Belarus’ fulfillment of its obligations within the EurAsEC loan made by the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) jeopardizes the timely allotment of the following tranche from the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund (ACF). The ACF rules, applied to Belarus, force Belarus to increase housing and transportation tariffs in the near future.
On 24 January the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), fund manager of the Anti-Crisis Fund of the EurAsEC, issued a press release assessing cooperation with Belarus within the framework of crediting of the anti-crisisprogramme. At the same time the EDB refused to clarify the terms and conditions for the third installment of the loan for Belarus, referring to the fact that negotiations have just started.
Expert team of EDB mainly complained about the following: 1. as a result of 2011, one of the most important parameters concerning adjustment of the balance of payments and inhibition of inflation, namely, cost-cutting on state programmes, has not been met; 2. municipal services and transportation costs reimbursement rates have not been met.
According to provisional data, in 2011, funding of state programmes made up 4.5% of the GDP, which is by 0.5 % higher than the benchmark provided by the coordinated anti-crisis programme. The level of cost recovery for utilities is significantly below the stipulated 30% and for transport - 70%, envisaged by the stabilization programme. EDB experts in cooperation with the Government drafted a new agreement (a letter of intent), which takes into account the results of joint work in 2011, and amends the anti-crisis programme.
The Belarusian government hopes that the issue of the following installment of the ACF of the EurAsEC will be reviewed in February. However, it is likely that the ACF will delay the payment of USD 440 million, demanding the Government to increase housing and transportation tariffs.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.