Regardless of the popularity of the i-phone, i-Pad, Kindle and similar electronic gadgets, books remain a huge part of our culture, as was evident at the recent 20th Minsk International Book Fair. From grand, illustrated volumes to simple paperbacks, the event provided clear evidence of our passion for reading and the pleasures of page turning. Each edition was handled carefully and lines read enthusiastically. Without exaggeration, each page, paragraph and, even, sentence was lovingly consumed!
Few would argue that the younger generation is in thrall to computer games, sometimes behaving like mindless robots, playing ceaselessly day and night. However, I’m happy to report that plenty of Belarusians still adore the printed word. Moreover, our Belarusian publishing houses are producing high-level editions. Belarus was not lost among the 25 countries which took part in the forum, showing their stands of novelties. In addition, there were literary discussions and meetings with authors and publishers, showing the genuine interest of readers today. Find out more in Folios, Bestsellers and Other Books on Show.
Those about to take our bank loans will be pleased to hear that new legislation forbids lenders from charging hidden commissions on borrowing. Recent amendments to the Banking Code aim to ensure that banks make customers fully aware of their repayment commitments. Previously, ‘clever’ advertising allowed them to present loans in a more favourable light, omitting to mention fees. A declared rate of 30 percent per annum might also bring an additional fee of almost three percent per month, adding an extra 36 percent per annum (plus 3 percent of the initial amount). Customers might find themselves locked into a rate of around 70 percent per annum, while some banks have been charging closer to 100 percent or, even, 140 percent. Interest Rates Coming Out of the Shadows explores this topic further.
Banks are naturally keen to find new marketing approaches to promote their services but will now have to ensure that their advertising offers full disclosure. Meanwhile, trust must be nurtured. Last year, Belarusian depositors’ anxiety regarding potential falls in the exchange rate led them to make ready for a run on the banks, recalling past crises. Fortunately, no such situation came to pass but what does 2013 hold in store? Rouble Confirms Its Profitability offers forecasts by financial analysts and other experts.
The Belarusian economy is tiny on a global scale, producing just 0.15 percent of the world’s GDP. However, as a small, compact country, this is quite sufficient. The question is whether we can maintain and, even, expand this share, to ensure a good standard of living for citizens. Across the world, there exist several poles of economic development, each only superficially friendly. Each vies to dominate new markets, ever in competition. When relying on others, it’s important to offer unique goods or services: your own niche. As mammals once co-existed with dinosaurs and, even, outlived them, finding their own place in the system, so can smaller countries survive. The recent round table — Belarus’ Balanced Integration into the World Economic Space — provides food for thought in Equilibrium of Successful Choice.
Meanwhile, political institutes are considering change to Belarusian electoral legislation, with the shift to single round parliamentary elections being discussed. Read more in Change is a Matter of Dialectics.
Change is as inevitable as the eternal movement of the oceans. Without it, we may stagnate.
By Viktor Kharkov