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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08VILNIUS828 2008-10-07 05:51:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

BELARUS WEEKLY POL/ECON REPORT - October 3, 2008

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM ECON ENRG BO 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000828 

SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY MINSK SENDS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM ECON ENRG BO
SUBJECT: BELARUS WEEKLY POL/ECON REPORT - October 3, 2008



1. The following are brief items of interest compiled by Embassy
Minsk.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Civil Society


--------------------------



- Opposition Activist Dismissed from Workplace (para. 2)
- Embattled Protestant Community Offered Land (para. 3)
- Opposition Protests Election Results (para. 4)
- No Opposition Candidates Elected to Parliament (para. 5)
- Opposition Candidate Arrested (para. 6)
- Opposition Youth, Journalist Beaten

Domestic Economy


--------------------------



- On-the-year Retail Sales up 21.3 Percent Through August
(para. 8)
- Belarus Ranks 95 among 141 Countries Rated In Attracting Foreign
Investment (para. 9)
- Belarus' Budget Surplus through August: USD 1.5 Billion (para.
10)
- Housing Utilities Bills on the Rise (para. 11)
- Germany a Major Investor (para. 12)

Foreign Trade


--------------------------


- Government Introduces Export Tariff on Potassium Fertilizers
(para. 13)

Quote of the Week (para. 14)


--------------------------





--------------------------


Civil Society


--------------------------





2. Opposition Activist Dismissed from Workplace

The Slonim Central Hospital Administration dismissed opposition
activist Ivan Bedko September 29. Bedko headed election
headquarters of a local opposition candidate and monitored
elections. He said that the administration unilaterally terminated
his labor contract two months ahead of its expiration and a year
before his retirement which violated labor laws. Bedko would appeal
to court but expressed doubt he would win the case following his
multiple complaints about rigging election results in the Slonim
district.



3. Embattled Protestant Community Offered Land

On September 29, the New Life Church (NLC) refused an offer of a
land plot in its response to the Minsk city authorities. NLC Lawyer
Sergey Lukanin noted that the offered land plot was four times
smaller and would not fit a prayer house to be built as large as
they currently occupy. Lukanin stated the community would like to
"peacefully" settle their protracted confiscation dispute with the
Minsk authorities in the framework of the ongoing case. The
Economic Court upheld forced sale of the NLC building at a minimal
price in 2006; however, the case was suspended indefinitely in


2007.



4. Opposition Protests Election Results

Approximately 600-1,000 civil society, youth, and opposition
activists demonstrated to protest "rigged" election results and
possible recognition of the newly elected parliament by the West in
central Minsk the evening of September 28. Heavily present law
enforcement forces closely observed but neither interfered nor
dispersed the unsanctioned rally. The Interior Ministry stated
September 29 that it would file a case of "malicious violation of
public order" to the prosecutors' office and hold the perpetrators
liable.



5. No Opposition Candidates Elected to Parliament

Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidiya Yermoshina announced
preliminary results of the parliamentary polls on September 29.
Over 26 percent of the registered electorate voted early, and the
turnout reached 75.3 percent. Thirty MPs were re-elected, and not a
single civil society or opposition activist was elected. The
OSCE/ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly observation missions
deeply criticized the conduct of the elections, noting "minor
improvements" but reporting that 48 percent of observers considered
the vote count to be "bad" or "very bad".



6. Opposition Candidate Arrested

On September 30, Bobruysk-based opposition hopeful Ales Chigir was
summoned to the police and sentenced to 10 days in jail. The police

VILNIUS 00000828 002 OF 003


charged the activist with minor hooliganism based on an
administrative case opened May 29. He was then briefly detained for
"defying police orders".



7. Opposition Youth, Journalist Beaten

Belarusian Popular Front Youth Wing members Franak Vychorka, Anton
Kalinovskiy, and Stepan Sviderskiy were beaten in Minsk after the
demonstration on September 28. Three plainclothesmen attacked the
activists and destroyed their flags and posters. In a separate
incident, chief editor of the independent "Kurier iz Vitebska"
newspaper and election observer Vladimir Bazan received minor head
injuries on September 28. Bazan reported the incident to the
police, who have opened an investigation.



--------------------------


Domestic Economy


--------------------------





8. On-the-year Retail Sales up 21.3 Percent Through August

Belarus' Statistics Ministry officials told Prime-TASS news agency
on September 26 that on-the-year rise in retail trade in Belarus was
21.3 percent through August. The ratio of food and non-food
products was 50:50. 79 percent of products sold were made in
Belarus. The shares of Belarusian made food and non-food products
in the total volumes of retailed food and non-food products were
85.7 percent and 70 percent respectively. 82 percent of all
products were retailed thorough private networks, 14.8 percent were
retailed through state-owned stores and only 3.3 percent were sold
via foreign-owned retail networks.



9. Belarus Ranks 95 among 141 Countries Rated in Attracting Foreign
Investment

According to several news agencies' reports, United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published an annual
report on September 24 on the world investment. In 2007, Belarus
ranked 95th in attracting foreign investment and 45th in investment
potential among 141 rated countries. The country made a significant
progress in attracting foreign investment, as in 2006 it ranked only
122nd. According to UNCTAD assessment, Belarus had USD 1.8 billion
of direct foreign investment in 2007.



10. Belarus' Budget Surplus through August: USD 1.5 Billion

According to press reports, Belarus' central budget through August
had a surplus of USD 1.5 billion. Budget revenues were 77 percent
of the 2008 plan and expenditures were 64 percent of the plan.



11. Housing Utilities Bills on the Rise

Belarus' Deputy Housing and Communal Services Minister Nikolai Lipen
told Belta news agency September 30 that as soon as the central
heating is turned on some time in October, Belarusians will have to
pay significantly higher utility bills. Although the Deputy
Minister said that the GOB has no immediate plan to increase heating
tariffs, an average utility bill will be USD 50 for a studio, USD 70
for one-bedroom and USD 200 for a two-bedroom apartment.



12. Germany is a Major Investor

Prime-TASS news agency reported October 1 that Belarusian Deputy
Economy Minister Andrei Tur described Germany as the country's major
partner in Europe, ranking fourth in Belarus' foreign trade balance.
Speaking at the Days of German Economy in Belarus conference, the
Deputy Minister said trade between the two countries grew from USD 1
billion in 2002 to USD 3.5 billion in 2007. Germany invested USD
320 million, of which USD 30 million was direct foreign investment.
Speaking at the same conference German Ambassador to Belarus
Gebhardt Weiss said his country looks forward to having more trade
with Belarus and expects more openness in mutual relations.



--------------------------


Foreign Trade


--------------------------





13. Government Introduces Export Tariff on Potassium Fertilizers

An anonymous source in Belarus' government told the Prime-TASS news
agency September 30 that Presidential Edict 530 signed on September
26 introduced an export tariff on Belarusian-made potassium
fertilizers of Euro 200 per ton. In the first seven months of the
year, exports of this commodity have grown 255 percent.
Belaruskaliy, the largest manufacturer in the CIS, exported a total
of 4.2 million tons and earned USD 1.8 billion. The tariff will be
effective until the end of the year and may be prolonged if the
world prices are sufficiently high. Belaruskaly plans to
manufacture a total of 8.3 million tons of fertilizers in 2008.



--------------------------


Quote of the Week

VILNIUS 00000828 003 OF 003




--------------------------





14. Speaking at the press conference on September 29 and commenting
on the results of the parliamentary elections Chairperson of the
Central Election Commission Lidia Yermoshina said:

"The rejection of early voting can only be accomplished after a
corresponding decision of the U.S. Congress. I believe the
stronghold of democracy (the U.S.) should be a role model for us."

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