By Yulia Ignatieva
It’s quite possible that, by 2013, the project will include more than its current three members; Kyrgyzstan has already applied to join, while Tajikistan is showing interest. How will the economy benefit and what changes are likely?
Today, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan already enjoy a common territory. The prime ministers noted during recent meetings in Minsk that a considerable step forward has been made, adding that integration will continue to grow, with solutions offered in time. From July 1st, customs controls will shift to the external borders of the Customs Union, influencing the speed and volume of cargo flow. This will be, undoubtedly, benefit international carriers, enhancing transit and bringing revenue into the Belarusian budget. The rapid movement of capitals, goods and services is expected (which now remains hampered by barriers and restrictions). The present integration aims to allow penetration into other markets — the key issue for Belarus, which is an export oriented and import dependent country.
Of course, each state has its own ‘sensitive’ positions, interests and agenda. According to manufacturers, it’s difficult to compete with Russian commodities as energy prices differ 2-2.5-fold. Clearly, where one country needs oil and gas for its sustainable development, the other has its own interests. A compromise is needed. The economic situations also differ. Kazakhstan and Russia are feeling the pressure of Chinese capital and Belarus is trying to manage its negative trade balance. These issues were discussed in detail in Minsk, where Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Alexei Kudrin, assured journalists that measures adopted by the Belarusian Government should improve the situation. “Belarus adequately assesses the situation, with the Government’s measures already being implemented. A loan from the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund is part of its strategy,” he noted.
Of course, we can’t rely solely on the loan. Experts from the Government say that the deficit of trade balance requires that export revenue and attraction of investments be extended. Of course, the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space will favourably influence sales, opening a 170 million market to foreign capital. It will be vital to create conditions which are more favourable than those seen in neighbouring countries.
Naturally, it’s easier to counteract global challenges together. For example, huge debt problems of Europe have forced investors to reduce their presence on developing markets. Our three countries may be affected but, if they competently assess the situation, they will undoubtedly find much to offer.