Belarus (Belarus) has a fairly large engineering industry with the production of trucks, tractors and tanks, as well as the chemical industry with the production mainly of fertilizers. Iron and steel production has also become an important sector. The industry is still dominated by large, state-owned companies.
Belarus was one of the most industrialized republics in the Soviet Union. Particularly important were the weapons factories as subcontractors to the Soviet military industry. Nowadays Belarus has more versatile industry, but interest in military equipment and services remains not only in former Soviet republics but also in Africa, the Middle East and West Asia, according to information firm Jane’s, which specializes in monitoring the world’s arms trade. Azerbaijan and Myanmar, both countries with authoritarian regimes, are among those who have ties to Belarus. Goscomvoyenprom, Belarus’s military equipment export agency, has stated that the total export value in 2018 was over one billion dollars.
Some privatization of industry began after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it soon stopped and, in some cases, industries were regenerated. The private industries that exist are mostly devoted to light industry and produce, among other things, building materials and food.
Tractor production is a Belarussian paradigm, but the country’s industrial products have had difficulty competing in quality on the world market. During the 1990s, industrial production fell, mainly due to reduced investments, higher energy prices and lost markets as a result of the collapse of the East trade.
The trend reversed in the early 2000s and industry growth accelerated. At the same time, more than a third of Belarus’s industrial companies suffered a loss. The good growth was based on the Russian market’s demand for Belarussian goods – on the world market they were still flat. The industry has had a major competitive advantage as Belarus has been able to buy natural gas cheaply from Russia, but from 2007 prices began to gradually increase.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Belarus. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
Oil refineries can be found in Novopolotsk and Mozyr. In early 2020, when Belarus and Russia disagreed with oil contracts, Belneftechim government stated that the Belarussian refineries were going halfway. Belarus has in recent years sought contact with other oil suppliers, primarily Norway (see Calendar).
In Salihorsk there is a large plant for the production of pot ash for artificial fertilizers; Belarus has a large share of the world market for such fertilizers. In 2019, prices were expected to fall as a result of large inventories, according to statements by Belaruskali’s head of government, which was reproduced by Reuters. The biggest buyers of pot ash are China and India.
Access to medicines for the seriously ill is being improved
Viryssland is in the process of increasing drug availability for patients carrying HIV / AIDS and hepatitis C. Domestic production of hepatitis C drugs began in 2017. Prices have fallen and there are now four manufacturers in the country. Against HIV / AIDS, a new program to finance state medicine purchases has been launched in 2018. The lowered prices are based on the production of generics, preparations containing the same substances as more expensive drugs that were previously protected by patents. The overall goal in health care is to stop the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis by 2030 (see October 22).
The EIB lends money to wastewater treatment plants
The European Investment Bank (EIB) plans to invest EUR 260 million in Belarus in 2019. The message is provided by Alexander Stubb, Vice President of the ECB, in connection with a meeting with President Lukashenko. The two have signed a treaty that Belarus may borrow EUR 160 million for, among other things, treatment plants. The agreements are contained within a framework agreement from 2017. Future projects discussed are about infrastructure: Belarus’s electricity grid and a highway.
New medicine gives hope for lung disease
In Belarus, there are many patients who suffer from lung disease tuberculosis and cannot be cured because different drugs do not bite the bacteria – they have become multi-resistant. Now a new medicine has been tested that gives hope that the sick can be treated. Of 181 Belarusian patients who received the new drug with the substance bedaquiline, 168 have been cured (93 percent), according to results that the AFP news agency has seen. Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The new preparation has been tested in several countries.
Several ministers get fired
President Aleksandr Lukashenko fires Prime Minister Andrej Kabjakau. He will be replaced by Bank Governor Sergei Rumas, the President’s Office announces. Several other ministers are dismissed at the same time. The reason is the corruption scandal within the healthcare system that shook the country during the summer.
Independent media employed
At least six journalists are arrested in Minsk in what is perceived as an ongoing campaign against independent media; the day before, four other journalists have been arrested. The Council of Europe and Reporters Without Borders express concern but receive answers from Belarusian Foreign Ministry that the arrests are not related to freedom of the press. Instead, the media is accused of gaining access to a state news agency without paying. After a couple of days, all the detainees are on free trial but still charged with crimes.
Corruption revealed within the healthcare system
A power scandal within the health care system is growing, leading to open demands for reform. Doctors, officials and employees of pharmaceutical companies have been arrested – dozens of people, and more are being investigated. They are accused of having expropriated large amounts of public funds, among other things, by inflating the prices of medicines and falsifying documentation. According to AFP, the head of the security service KGB said in TV broadcast comments in July that the system for the purchase of medical equipment and medicines facilitates bribery and mildew. The state news agency Belta has published pictures from a house search with a health care manager where they should have found the equivalent of almost five million in cash.
Chinese military in parade
Chinese forces participate in a military parade on Belarus National Day. This is according to the AFP news agency for the first time, and testifies that the Belarusian leadership is seeking closer ties with the regime in Beijing to balance Russian influence in the country. Russian military is also participating in the parade in Minsk.
“Ice Age” after teddy bear riots over
Foreign Ministry spokesman Dmitrij Mirontjik becomes new ambassador to Stockholm. The post has been vacant for six years, since an advertising agency dropped teddy bears with democracy messages in Belarusian airspace and triggered a diplomatic meeting between Minsk and Stockholm (see July 2012). The sanctions that the EU enforced against Belarus were abolished just over two years ago, when EU countries considered that respect for human rights increased (see February 2016).
Centenary memory with obstacles
At least 30 protesters are arrested in Minsk and a number of other places face a planned but banned march, human rights organization Viasna said. The opposition wants to gather to celebrate the centenary of the short-lived Belarusian People’s Republic of 1918-1919. President Lukashenko has this year, for the first time under his rule, allowed public celebration on March 25. In Minsk, however, the march is banned, while a concert is allowed. The red-white flag used by the Republic of 1918 has, according to AFP, become commonplace as an opposition symbol.
Stop for milk and cream to Russia
Russia is introducing a temporary halt for, among other things, milk and cream from Belarus, citing the sanitary conditions and animal husbandry in production. The stop lasts until action is taken, it is called. About a quarter of Russian consumption of dairy products is imported, and a large part of the goods come from Belarus; between 78 and 92 percent during the period January to November 2017, according to Russian statistics published by AFP.
Conditional for Prorean bloggers
Three bloggers have been sentenced to five years in prison. The Minsk Court designates their blog posts, made on a Prorean site called Regnum, as hate crimes and warns that such posts may help to throw Belarus into a situation similar to that of Ukraine. One of the three, who were arrested in 2016 according to AFP, should have claimed that it is harmful to learn Belarusian and that Belarus is part of Russia.
Access to sites is restricted
The opposition movement Charta 97 has had its internet site blocked. The group was formed by politician Andrej Sannikau, who challenged Aleksandr Lukashenko in the 2010 presidential election. Subsequent to the election, the editor of the site moved the business to Poland. According to the Belarusian Ministry of Information, access to the site has now been restricted because it was used to disseminate “illegal” information. The Ministry refers to a law that deals with, among other things, the national security, but according to AFP does not specify in detail how the site violated the regulations. In December, a site was temporarily blocked for another group, the “Belarusian partisan”.
2017 was a year of growth
After two years of decline, the Belarussian economy turned upwards in 2017, according to official figures, to a GDP growth of 2.4 percent. But the growth target for 2018 of 3.5 percent is too high, according to the analysis company IHS Markit. Belarus’s dependence on Russia, not least for exports, continues to make it sensitive to changes outside its borders.