Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 164

Belarusan president Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s official economic numbers may look impressive, but the IMF does not seem to find them persuasive. Moreover, even according to the official numbers, inflation in Belarus is running well above the levels of neighboring countries. While it is difficult to discern what is really happening with the Belarusan economy, the actual picture does seem to be less rosy than the official portrait.

The numbers presented in Minsk’s official economic hit parade continue to look impressive. GDP is reported to have grown by 11 percent during January-July 1997, relative to the same period in 1996. (Russian agencies, August 28) This growth was theoretically powered by a 15 percent increase in investment spending, which, according to Belarusan minister of economy Uladzimir Shymaw, is a key factor behind the progress made in increasing the competitiveness of Belarusan industry. (Narodnaya gazeta, August 12) In Shymaw’s view, this investment, along with a planned devaluation of the Belarusan ruble, has helped exports to grow by some 10 percent this year. Shymaw admitted that inflation continues to be a problem — consumer prices increased by 41 percent (5.9 percent per month) during the first six months of the year — despite the presence of various formal and informal price controls. However, President Lukashenka then ordered policy makers to bring this rate down, whereupon it fell to 1.4 percent in July and 0.4 percent for the first half of August, according to Shymaw. (Radio Minsk, August 23)

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