Privatization or death
30 января 2012, 15:53
Moscow sends clear messages to Minsk, that it's time to carry out the promised privatization. Belarusian authorities, however, didn't hurry to part with state property and nomenclature omnipotence in the economy.
In June 2011 the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund decided to allocate a stabilization loan to Belarus of $3 billion. One of the main conditions for funds allocation was the privatization for at least $7.5 billion in three years.
If during the last year Minsk easily fulfilled its obligations, had parted with 50% stake of Beltransgaz, then in 2012 the question arose what are the companies that should be sold. Moreover, many experts point out, that Alexander Lukashenko cannot allow such a massive sale of "family silver" - it will inevitably undermine the economic omnipotence of the president, which is unlikely included in his plans.
First Deputy Director of the Economy Research Institute of the Ministry of Economy Viktor Pinigin said on the last week, the list of companies which sales would bring the country $2.5 billion hadn't been defined yet. "Objects are now being worked out. The final list doesn't exist yet", the official noted.
Minsk took a defensive position. But in conditions of the economic crisis and "Ice Age" in relations with the West, Lukashenko is almost devoid of space to maneuver. Especially, since the Kremlin hasn't unconditionally trust the promises and words of Belarusian president and ensures itself against any risks:
"Russia has already has bitter experience in dealing with Lukashenko, when he first promises, and then makes big eyes and says, you didn't understand us right, - political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky comments on the situation. - It's no accident, that recently, details of the sale contract of the second part of "Beltransgaz" have surfaced, where it turned out that Belarusian side is being held almost in servitude. It's no accident, that the credit of the EurAsEC anti-crisis fund is so toughly allocated in tranches. Each piece Moscow is intended to give only in case of implementation of the privatization program. By all of these details it's felt, the Kremlin has taken Belarus in hand seriously".
Gold and currency reserves of Belarus are big as never before (for now it's $7.9 billion), discounts on energy from Russia and received and the authorities managed to "collect" decent inflation tax from business. In addition, it's known that Alexander Lukashenko is wary of foreign investors, but has a passion for absolute power and voluntarism. Therefore, experts reasonably assume, that in the highest echelons of power there is a discussion on the topic: whether to sell state property for $5 billion to get from the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund undrawn $1.7 billion of the loan?
"After received money from Russia, the Belarusian government is in extremely awkward position. On the one hand Belarus undertook certain obligations, on the other hand, it is not going to perform some of these commitments, or at least, wants it not very much", doctor of Economic Sciences Boris Zheliba told in an interview to UDF.BY.
It's obvious that Russia wants not just the privatization of Belarusian economy, it has plans to sale the government property exactly to the Russian capital:
"To sell the business each year for $2.5 billion is a difficult task. The problem is that they have to sell it exactly to Russia, - Zheliba says. - Previously there was a chance to maneuver: they could orient both on the West and the East. Western vector is now closed, so we are left alone with the "big brother". However, we would benefit more from the European capital, with its technical and organizational innovations".
The complicated situation in which the Belarusian authorities appeared, also gives rise to quite exotic options for the domestic economic landscape.
Thus, in an interview to RBC the head of the Research Center of Mises and the ex-presidential candidate Yaroslav Romanchuk suggested, Lukashenko's allies in consolidation of their political positions may become new Belarusian oligarchs.
"Lukashenko has nothing to do but share the property with the chosen ones, to implement the principle "Belarus for Belarusians", to play on patriotic overtones. This politics is well combined with the envy to the rich ones, aversion to Russian oligarchs and the fear of open competition, - Romanchuk said . - To implement it, Alexander Lukashenko has to choose a few dozen people, whom he can trust in participation in the scheme of the state property partition. Of course, while maintaining control over all privatization projects. Disobedience in managing the assets received will be punishable by arrest, nationalization or even more severe measures".
But even this scenario is fraught with certain dangers for Belarusian president:
"Where there is an independent money, independence in other forms appears. Holders of money are beginning to feed their press, their political forces. After all, when there is a strong layer of owners, there is always a threat to autocracy. The situation in Ukraine is a good example in this respect. When many oligarchs supported exactly the "orange" ones , - Klaskovsky shares his thoughts . - Although the conversion of power into property is already happening in some of the latent and illegal forms. I think, there is some pressure from the nomenclature side, which would like to legalize their status of the owners and to "live as humans".
What Lukashenko will do in such a difficult for him situation? The answer will be rather typical - "to twist".
"Lukashenko will have to maneuver. The further, the more he has to to twist as a grass snake on a skillet. Pressure of Russia, the pressure of internal factors. I think, in his usual manner, he will allow only minor concessions, will balk to the end, hoping that somehow we'll slip through", Klaskovsky forecasts.