Economics: Belarus wants to come in from the cold
Economic policies geared towards foreign investment; Sovereign Eurobond debut proves a smash hit
The end of cheap subsidized energy imports from Russia has prompted Belarus’s president Lukashenko to seek a political and economic rapprochement with the west
Belarus continues to take further steps towards economic liberalization, with the launch of the country’s debut Eurobond providing further evidence of a desire to attract much-needed foreign investment. Led since 1994 by authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus was described in 2005 by then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice as "the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe". Rice has departed the political stage in the US but Lukashenko remains at the helm in Minsk. Although Belarus still has a largely Soviet-style, centrally controlled economy with strong ties to Russia, the end of cheap subsidized energy imports from Russia has prompted Lukashenko to seek a political and economic rapprochement with the west.
Although Belarus avoided the worst of the global financial crisis because of strong growth in fixed investment – principally through state-financed housebuilding programmes – it was last year forced to seek support from the IMF. A $3.52 billion support package was agreed conditional on changes in the exchange rate regime, a step-up in structural reforms and the pursuit of a balanced budget.