By Mikhail Kovalev
Belarus is debating a draft project of Basic Guidelines of the Programme of Socio-Economic Development of the Republic of Belarus for the coming years, keeping its traditional goals of improving the quality of life for citizens. Belarus is eager to remain among the top ten states boasting the lowest level of social inequality, alongside such countries as Sweden and Slovenia.
By late 2015, we’ll approach the level of developed European states regarding standards of living. GDP per capita in Belarus should reach $26,000-27,000, growing 11 percent annually. Of course, administrative measures alone won’t ensure this; we need to drive forward the market to achieve our aim. Besides the state sector, a modern private sector needs to be developed, using foreign investments. Our task is to create a barrier-free business environment, governed by the 2015 Programme. Alongside already adopted measures, this should create more liberal business conditions for entrepreneurs.
The major criteria for success over the coming five years will surely be export growth for goods and services, alongside well-balanced and efficient foreign trade. If our exports exceed imports by $1bn a year, we’ll certainly demonstrate our increasing international competitiveness to investors.
By 2015, we want to see exports rise from the present $25bn to $50-52bn. Perhaps the most complicated task will be the doubling of our agricultural exports (to reach $5bn), while making them fully profitable. Programmers are likely to realise their task more easily since, over the last five years, they have raised exports 8-fold, with revenue significantly outstripping that spent on importing IT products. With this in mind, the sector must aim high, raising exports from today’s $200m to $2bn. Once this is achieved, Belarus’ ‘Silicon Valley’ should equal leading outsourcers in India, the UK and Ireland.
No doubt, our logistics will contribute much to export development. In 2010, exports are set to reach $3bn. The Suez Canal can hardly cope with the huge flow of containers from China, so why shouldn’t some travel to Brest’s warehouses by rail, transiting Customs Union territory.
The success of Belarusian products’ promotion abroad relies on integrating exporters’ sales networks into large, modern commodity distribution systems of sales and technical maintenance, under the ‘made in Belarus’ trademark. The establishment of chains of Belarusian hypermarkets abroad is also vital. The realisation of this major goal requires a shift in the focus of our country’s banking system — from crediting imports to crediting exports. Instead of aiding foreign partners in their mastery of tied import credits, our banks must move towards efficient financing of Belarusian exporters, while crediting buyers of our tractors, combines, buses and other manufactures.
Over the next five years, we may start printing our own currency, including minting coins.