Late start of growing prices for services for the population
Prices and tariffs continue growing in Belarus. On 4 August public transport fares were increased by 3% to Br 900, on average by 10% increased the tariffs for the population for heating, hot water supply and natural gas.
On 3 August the minimum purchase prices for 2011 agricultural crops purchased for state needs raised by 60% to 100%.
The expected increase in gas prices ($ 270 on average, against $ 185 in 2010), as well as the devaluation make the government increasing the tariffs for the population. At the same time, in the framework of the EurAsEC Anti-crisis Programme the government promised to cover 30% of the tariff’s costs (currently about 10% for the heating). Therefore in the autumn the growth of utility services rates will become one of the driving forces of inflation. Moreover, new crop production prices will affect prices for flour and bakery products, cereals, beer, sugar, meat and meat products (fodder). This means the country falls into an inflationary spiral “costs – prices”. The solution requires considerable political will at the cost of recession and significant reduction of incomes.
Experts’ expectations, including ones from the National Bank, who said that the devaluation would not be a panacea for solving the problems of the Belarusian economy, proved right. Inefficiency and unwillingness of producers to stop emissions completely translates into a new round of prices; the decline in real income the government is trying to compensate with increases in wages and pensions, which puts pressure on the costs. Given the circumstances, finding the guilty one (the National Bank) would have a propaganda effect only. However in order to achieve the real effect, competent, professional and independent monetary policy needs to be implemented.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.