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Press Release- Embassy of Belarus : 12 June 2020

June 10, 2020

Belarus registers 51,066 coronavirus cases, 288 deaths as of Jun 10, 2020

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. Belarus registered 51,066 confirmed coronavirus cases as of June 10, 2020, 288 people died, the Health Ministry of Belarus reports on its official Telegram channel.

25,667 patients have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals.

As reported, the number of registered coronavirus cases in Belarus reached 50,265 a day before; 282 patients died.

The Health Ministry reports 659,500 tests for the coronavirus infection as of June 10, 2020. End

Belarus sticks to region’s worst COVID-19 response scenario – experts

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The Belarusian scenario for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic is the worst in the region, say the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences and the Lithuanian Energy Institute.

“The data of recent days show that not Sweden’s, but Belarus’ scenario is the worst in the entire region in terms of incidence. The total number of deaths shows significant differences. Based on the Swedish scenario, Lithuania would have 18 times more deaths today. The situation is difficult to compare with the data from Russia and Belarus, because the methodology for registering deaths differs here,” DELFI quotes the scientists as saying. They say the real situation can be assessed later by comparing the total number of deaths in the countries over the same period.

The pandemic in the Baltic States has been in a low-key phase for some time now, and the number of new cases of the disease is not statistically significant.

“The situation in Belarus is still causing concern, as the number of new cases is decreasing slowly there. A similar situation is observed in Russia, where the outbreak is not under control either. The situation in Russia and Belarus is still difficult to assess, because, due to a different registration technique, the statistical indicators in these countries are artificially understated,” reads the statement.

“The available data show that the situation in the Baltic States is better not because the population of these countries is exceptionally more genetically resistant to the virus, as the incidence is very high in Belarus, the population of which is genetically close to Lithuanians,” the experts say. If the situation in Lithuania developed according to the Belarusian scenario, the country would have eight times more cases, and if the situation developed according to the Swedish scenario, then there would be about seven times more patients.

According to the latest data, 1,733 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Lithuania with a 2.8 million population; 74 people died from COVID-19.

As reported, the number of detected coronavirus cases in Belarus (9.5 million residents) stood at 51,066 as of June 10, 2020; 288 deaths were reported. Unlike most European countries, Belarus would not impose social distancing measures, and would not cancel mass events. End

Lukashenko instructs to investigate forced sign-up for alternative presidential candidates

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko instructed Presidential Chief of Staff Igor Sergeyenko, Speaker of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly Natalia Kochanova and head of the Presidential Property Management Directorate Viktor Sheiman to inspect private companies to find out why people were fired over the past three months. Lukashenko spoke about this at the meeting on pressing socio-political issues held on June 10, the presidential press office reports.

“Complaints about this so-called “election campaign” have been heard recently. What outrages me the most is that private companies fire people, especially in Minsk and other cities (this is typical of cities). I would not say that it happens in large numbers, but quite a lot. I have already made a statement about this. People are fired for refusing to put signatures for the registration of the so-called “alternative candidates”: if they don’t sign in support of, say, Petrov or Sidorov, they are out,” Lukashenko said.

According to the president, “nothing like that” takes place at state-controlled enterprises. “I want to say this publicly: if they want to work decently for the benefit of Belarus, without offending people, they must reinstate those people or pay them for three, two or one months for kicking them out for no reason,” Lukashenko said.

He also instructed to provide support to the Central Election Commission to the full extent.

“I see everything. Do not worry. We will bring everyone to senses at the right time and at the right place. There will be no coup in the country. Maidan is out of the question,” said Lukashenko.

As reported, initiative groups are to collect at least 100,000 signatures from May 21 to June 19, 2020 so that potential presidential candidates can apply to the Central Election Commission for registration. The House of Representatives scheduled the presidential election for August 9, 2020. Candidates will be nominated from June 20 to July 4. Their registration will be considered on July 5-14. The election campaign will begin after this. Early voting is scheduled for August 4-8. The election result will be reported on or before August 19. The second round, if necessary, is to be held within two weeks, i.e. on August 23.

The first presidential election took place on June 23 (first round) and July 10, 1994 (second round). Alexander Lukashenko has been staying in office ever since. A referendum on amendments to Article 81 of the Constitution of Belarus, which abolished the limit of two five-year presidential terms for one person, was held on October 17, 2004. End

Belarus reports 0.1% deflation in May; 3.2% inflation in Jan-May 2020

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. Belarus reports 0.1% deflation in May 2020 and 3.2% inflation in January-May 2020. Prices rose by 4.9% year on year in May 2020, by 4.9% yoy in January-May 2020, the National Statistics Committee of Belarus (Belstat) reported.

Inflation was at 0.9% in January 2020, 1% in February 2020, 0.9% in March 2020 and 0.6% in April 2020.

According to Belstat, food prices decreased 0.6% month on month in May, and increased by 2.8% from December 2019. Food prices rose by 4% month on month in May 2020, by 4% year on year in January-May 2020.

Non-food prices rose by 0.4% month on month in May 2020 and by 3.2% from December 2019. Non-food went up 4.6% yoy in May 2020, 4.3% yoy in January-May 2020.

Prices and tariffs for for-fee services decreased in May 2020 by 0.03% month on month and increased by 3.8% from December 2019. Prices of for-fee services went up by 7.1% yoy in May 2020, by 7.1% yoy in January-May 2020.

As reported, inflation in 2019 was at 4.7%, the official forecast being 5%. The official inflation forecast for 2020 is also at or below 5%, the National Bank’s forecast standing at 6%. End

Belarus reports $502.1m foreign trade surplus in Jan-Apr 2020

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. Belarus’ surplus in foreign trade in commodities and services amounted to $502.1 million in January-April 2020 compared with a $85 million surplus in January-April 2019, says the National Statistics Committee of Belarus (Belstat).

The foreign trade turnover of goods and services decreased in Jan-Apr 2020 by 17.3% year on year to $21.681 billion.

Exports of commodities and services decreased in Jan-Apr 2020 by 15.6% year on year to $11.091 billion; imports were down 18.9% to $10.589 billion.

Deficit of foreign trade in goods amounted to $804.3 million in Jan-Apr 2020 to compare with a $1.116 billion deficit in Jan-Apr 2019.

Exports of goods (in FOB prices) were down 20% yoy in Jan-Apr 2020 to $8.26 billion, imports decreased 20.7% to $9.064 billion.

Surplus of foreign trade in services amounted to $1.306 billion in Jan-Apr 2020 against a $1.201 billion surplus in Jan-Apr 2019.

Exports of services grew in Jan-Apr 2020 by 0.2% year on year to $2.832 billion; imports were down 6.1% to $1.525 billion.

As reported, Belarus’ foreign trade deficit stood at $243.4 million in 2019. The turnover of foreign trade in goods and services totalled $84.175 billion; exports – $41.966 billion; imports – $42.209 billion. Export of goods (in FOB prices) amounted to $32.315 billion in 2019, imports – $36.391 billion; export of services – $9.651 billion; imports of services – $5.818 billion. End

Belarus-Russia trade turnover down 26.2% in Jan-Apr 2020 to $7.94bn

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The Belarus-Russia trade turnover decreased in January-April 2020 by 26.2% year on year to $7.94 billion, says the Federal Customs Service of the Russian Federation.

Export from Russia to Belarus decreased in Jan-Apr 2020 by 35.8% to $4.342 billion; imports to Russia from Belarus – by 10% to $3.598 billion.

Belarus’ share in the total foreign trade turnover of the Russian Federation decreased in Jan-Apr 2020 to 4.3% from 5% in Jan-Apr 2019. End

NBB proposes to allow banks issuing and placing tokens in 2021-2024 – draft ordinance

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The National Bank of Belarus (NBB) proposes, as an experiment, to allow banks issuing and placing tokens and make other transactions (operations) with them in 2021-2024. This is provided for by a draft presidential ordinance formulated by the National Bank.

The draft is aimed at expanding the involvement of banks in the process of digital transformation of the economy. The right to issue and place tokens may be given to ASB Belarusbank JSC, Belagroprombank JSC, Bank Dabrabyt OJSC, Paritetbank OJSC, BPS-Sberbank OJSC, Belgazprombank OJSC, Belvnesheconombank OJSC, BTA Bank CJSC, BSB Bank CJSC, Bank Reshenie CJSC, RRB-Bank CJSC and Belarusian People’s Bank OJSC. End

Proposed banks’ rights

The draft proposes to allow banks to issue, place, acquire, alienate and store their tokens and fulfil obligations thereon; acquire, alienate and store bank tokens, certifying the right to receive the amount of money paid by the bank for the token when it is placed, as well as income in the form interest accrued on the specified amount, or in the form of a particular amount.

Banks will receive the right to acquire, alienate and store tokens of residents of the High-Technology Park (HTP), which act as crypto platform operators, certifying the right to receive the amount of money paid by the bank for the token when it is placed, as well as income in the form interest accrued on the specified amount, or in the form of a particular amount.

Also, banks will be able to acquire, alienate and store tokens of other legal entities of the Republic of Belarus.

The draft ordinance establishes that banks are entitled to carry out these operations with tokens through an HTP resident in the manner established for legal entities by presidential decree No.8 ‘On Digital Economy Development’ of December 21, 2017.

Rights of HTP residents in operations with tokens

The draft establishes that HTP residents engaged in token-related services, including their promotion and consultancy, may render services to banks related to transactions (operations) with tokens, including the fulfillment of obligations arising from issuing and placement of bank tokens.

Legal entities and individuals (including individual entrepreneurs) who are residents of Belarus will be entitled to make transactions (operations) with bank tokens through an HTP resident engaged in related operations.

The HTP resident, which places bank tokens and provides the bank with services related to the fulfillment of obligations on the bank tokens placed, accumulates in the special current (settlement) bank account the funds received from the first owners of the bank tokens and/or the funds provided by the bank to fulfill obligations on its tokens.

Only funds received from the first owners of the token of the bank received by the HTP resident and transferred by the bank for the fulfillment by the HTP resident of the bank’s obligations to the holders of its tokens are credited exclusively to the special account.

The funds in the special account shall not be spent on taxes, fees or other mandatory payments to budgets and extra-budgetary funds. They are not subject to levy in line with enforcement or other documents, seizures, suspensions or measures to ensure enforcement of executive documents.

The HTP resident is to ensure the identification of persons, who intend to become owners of the tokens of the bank, as well as persons from whom the bank intends to purchase tokens, and persons whose tokens the bank intends to purchase in accordance with legislative requirements in the field of preventing the legalization of proceeds from crime. The bank is to make sure that the identification is carried out as required.

NBB’s rights in regulating operations with tokens

The NBB determines the forms, scope and procedure of reporting on banks’ transactions (operations) to the National Bank; verifies compliance with legislation that govern the execution of transactions (operations) with tokens, including by conducting desk audits at the location of the National Bank, and approves the rules for transactions (operations) with tokens.

The NBB determines requirements to information and the composition of the information that should be contained in the White Paper of the bank, and the procedure for approval of such declarations. The rules will also establish criteria for HTP residents, with which banks are entitled to enter into agreements for the provision of services related to the issue and placement of bank tokens and the use of foreign exchange when making transactions (operations) with tokens.

The draft will presumably enter into force on January 1, 2021.

As previously reported, the main provisions of presidential decree No.8 took effect on March 28, 2018. It introduces new benefits and activities of HTP residents, including those with use of blockchain technologies, crypto currency mining and ICOs.

The HTP hosts the Finstore.by platform created by BelVEB Bank OJSC. It invites resident individuals and legal entities to invest in tokens of Belarusian companies.

The HTP was established by presidential decree No.12 of September 22, 2005 to foster development of software and information and communication technologies aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the national economy. The legal regime of the HTP applies throughout the country. As of April 14, 2020, 818 companies were registered in the High-Tech Park, employing over 61,000 people. End

Wednesday forex session: ruble up 0.27% against dollar to Br2.3721/$1

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. Following the bidding at the single forex session of the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange (BCSE) in the format of a continuous two-way auction, the Belarusian ruble stood at Br2.3721/$1 to the dollar on Jun 10, up 0.27% on the previous day of trading, says the BCSE official report.

Following the bidding at the single forex session on Wednesday, the ruble stood at Br2.6941/€1 to the euro, down 0.59%; at Br3.4532/RUB100 to the Russian ruble, up 0.17%.

As reported, the National Bank of Belarus (NBB) on June 1, 2015 stopped the practice of fixing the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble to the basket of foreign currencies on a day-to-day basis and switched over to FX trading on the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange (BCSE) in the format of a continuous two-way auction.

The parties taking part in continuous two-way auctions at the BCSE are free to make bids and offers during the entire auction period, however deals will be made if the FX trading system bridges bids with relevant offers.

The weighted average rate of the US dollar, the euro and the Russian ruble shall be the National Bank’s official exchange rate of the relevant currency for the day that follows the day of trading.

At the moment, the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble is pegged to the basket of foreign currencies, with the share of the Russian ruble standing at 50%, the US dollar – 30%, the euro – 20%. End

First unit of Belarus’ NPP to reach full capacity in Feb 2021 – Ambassador Semashko

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The 1at unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant (Astravyets District, Grodno Oblast) will start operating at full capacity in February 2021, Ambassador of Belarus to the Russian Federation Vladimir Semashko said during an online conference on June 10.

“Together with our colleagues from Rosatom we will set the date of the physical launch of the 1st power unit in a week. We plan that this unit will be 100% operational in February 2021,” said Semashko.

Belarus’ first nuclear power plant in Ostrovets (a town in the Grodno Region also referred to as Astravyets) will have two units with a combined capacity of up to 2,400 megawatts, which are slated to be launched in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The Belarusian nuclear station’s design stems from the AES-2006 design developed by the St Petersburg-based institute Atomenergoproject, which is also the general contractor of the Belarusian project. End

Launch of Gomel-Gorki oil pipeline construction scheduled for Nov 1

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The construction of the Gomel-Gorki trunk oil pipeline, which will connect the southern and northern branches of the Druzhba trunk oil pipeline in Belarus, as well as the two oil refineries Naftan OJSC (Novopolotsk, Vitebsk Oblast) and Mozyr Refinery (Gomel Oblast), will be launched on Nov 1, 2020, says Gomeltransneft-Druzhba Vice CEO Andrei Karaban.

The maximum annual capacity of the Br300m pipeline ($126.13m) shall be 6 million tonnes.

The investment project to build the 207-km Gomel-Gorki trunk line will be implemented in 2020-2023 for the sake of diversifying oil import to Belarus. Belarus President Lukashenko signed the relevant executive order on April 29.

As previously reported, in 2020 Belarus imports tanker oil from the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, as well as from the Ukrainian port of Odessa, which is then delivered to Mozyr refinery via the pipelines Odessa-Brody and Brody-Mozyr. From Klaipeda, oil is delivered to Naftan by rail, which significantly increases the cost of supplies.

As previously reported, in March 2020, President Lukashenko ordered to complement the infrastructure of the Druzhba oil pipeline with a facility to import oil from Baltic ports. In his words, the U.S. may help to organize oil supplies to Belarus from Baltic ports. For instance, Washington may provide cheap loans for the construction of the pipeline from the Baltic Sea. Lukashenko has also set a task for the government to prepare the necessary infrastructure within 18 months, including the construction of necessary bridges on the existing pipeline, which will cost about $100-120 million. End

Belorusneft sets price of Br0.03-0.04 per 1 kWh for charging electric vehicles from July 1, 2020

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. Belorusneft State Association (Rechitsa, Gomel Oblast) has completed the test of the network of Malanka electric charging stations, and sets the price of Br0.03-0.04 ($0.01-0.02 at the rate of the National Bank of Belarus) per 1 kWh for charging electric vehicles from July 1, 2020. The price will depend on the charging speed, the company reports.

Belorusneft Vice CEO Andrei Kotik says electric vehicles have been charged free since 2014. “The fees have been discussed since 2018. It was decided to postpone the introduction of tariffs until 2020,” he says.

Malanka stations operate in all regions and on all highways of Belarus. Over 260 stations have been arranged. “We apply the worldwide practice. Even Tesla stations charged vehicles for free at first, when infrastructure was being created, and now they are providing services for money,” says Kotik.

According to Belorusneft experts, a full charge of the Nissan Leaf electric car will cost Br7-9 ($2.9-3.8), depending on the charging speed. Fuel consumption by the same car equipped with a petrol engine is about 10 litres for the same distance, which costs Br18-20 ($7.6-8.4).

Belorusneft says the relatively low price will hardly rise in the future, given that the Belarusian NPP (Astravyets District, Grodno Oblast) will be put into operation soon.

Consumers will be able to pay for the charging in Belarus using a mobile application, which will also enable to track the charging parameters, reserve a charge, and see the location of the nearest stations.

Belorusneft estimates the cost of Malanka network at €150 million. This amount of investment is being negotiated with the European Bank for Reconstruction of Development and the European Investment Bank.

Belorusneft’s first charging station has been operating since 2014. The company plans to open 640 stations by 2022. Currently, charging terminals 120 kW in capacity are being installed on highways at gas stations. New stations with the capacity of 150 kW are planned.

Presidential ordinance No.273 of July 10, 2018 determined Belorusneft as the state operator for the creation and development of a charging network for electric vehicles.

Belorusneft was founded in 1966. Being part of Belneftekhim state petrochemical concern, the company specializes in exploration work, oil extraction, gas processing and offers a wide range of seismic exploration operations.

Belorusneft provides oil extraction service in Russia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Ecuador, facilitates crude supplies to Belarusian on refineries on a give-and-take basis. Belorusneft sells oil products via a proprietary network of refilling stations–the largest network in the country. End (Br2.3785/$1)

Belarus buyers of electric cars to get VAT refund up to $5,700 apiece

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. An individual purchasing an electric car in Belarus after June 15 may count on receiving a VAT refund of up to 500 basic units (Br13.500 or $5,680), in accordance with government resolution #333 of June 9, 2020.

For reference: 1 basic unit – Br27 or $11.35; $1 – Br2.3785.

VAT become refundable provided an individual purchases an M1 or an M1G car driven exclusively by an electric motor. The get a VAT refund, the purchase must be made in Belarus in the period from June 15, 2020 to December 31, 2025.

The document clarifies the procedure: in order to refund a VAT refund, an individual who purchased an electric car shall use a standard application to notify the tax authority in his/her place of residence about the purchase of an electric car and payment of value added tax.

VAT refund to an individual shall be made by the tax authority not later than 30 calendar days from the date of submission of the notification by this individual to the tax authority. End

NBB’s currency rates as of Jun 11, 2020

MINSK, Jun 10 – PrimePress. The National Bank of Belarus (NBB) set on Jun 10, 2020 the following exchange rates of the Belarusian ruble (Br) against foreign currencies for Jun 11, 2020. 

  Currency   Br
1 AUSTRALIAN DOLLAR AUD 1.6589
1 BULGARIAN LEV BGN 1.3777
100 UKRANIAN HRYVNA UAH 8.9067
10 DANISH KRONE DKK 3.6149
1 U.S. DOLLAR USD 2.3721
1 EURO EUR 2.6941
10 POLISH ZŁOTY PLN 6.0334
10,0000 IRANIAN RIAL IRR 5.6479
100 ICELAND KRONA ISK 1.7928
100 JAPANESE YEN JPY 2.2094
1 CANADIAN DOLLAR CAD 1.7700
10 CHINESE YUAN CNY 3.3570
1 KUWAITI DINAR KWD 7.7141
10 Moldovan Leu MDL 1.3831
1 New Zealand Dollar NZD 1.5525
10 NORWEGIAN KRONE NOK 2.5593
100 RUSSIAN RUBLE RUB 3.4532
1 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) XDR 3.2762
1 SINGAPORE DOLLAR SGD 1.7123
100 KIRGHIZ SOM KGS 3.2000
1,000 KAZAKH TENGE KZT 5.9265
10 TURKISH LIRAS TRY 3.4936
1 BRITISH POUND STERLING GBP 3.0247
100 CZECH KORUNA CZK 10.1164
10 SWEDISH KRONA SEK 2.5824
1 SWISS FRANK CHF 2.5057

 

June 9, 2020

Belarus registers 50,265 coronavirus cases, 282 deaths as of Jun 9, 2020

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. Belarus registered 50,265 confirmed coronavirus cases as of June 9, 2020, 282 people died, the Health Ministry of Belarus reports on its official Telegram channel.

24,506 patients have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals.

As reported, the number of registered coronavirus cases in Belarus reached 49,453 a day before; 276 patients died.

The Health Ministry reports 644,160 tests for the coronavirus infection as of June 9, 2020. End

Situation may flare up at any stage of presidential election – Lukashenko

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko says an aggravation of the situation is possible at any stage of the election process in Belarus. He spoke about this at the meeting on national security held on June 9, the presidential press office reports.

“Only three weeks have passed since the start of this election campaign, and we already see that not all candidates for candidates intend to go this way in a civilized way. Laws are breached everywhere. Ethical standards are not observed, and the authorities are being insulted and attacked,” Lukashenko said.

He said the turning of the collection of signatures into unauthorized rallies and public events is inadmissible. “You know what happened in Ukraine in a similar situation [the overthrow of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014]. Therefore, the law must be enforced without fail,” said the president.

He demanded that those taking aggressive actions against law enforcers be prosecuted. “Today, threats are pouring in from everywhere to public officers, heads of district election commissions that were engaged in the parliamentary elections, and their families. What is this? I require the law enforcement agencies, first of all the prosecutor general, chairman of the Investigative Committee and minister of the interior, to pay close attention to this. Such threats are a criminal violation that must be prosecuted under criminal law,” Lukashenko said.

“First, members of some initiative groups abuse the right to hold pickets to rock the situation and destabilize the socio-political situation, and then they will form teams and militant groups that, possibly, will want to massacre people on the streets. They are calling people to this. There can be only one response, you know what I mean,” Lukashenko said.

According to the president, the so-called “modern election technologies” are often a dirty business. “We have gone through this once and again. We did not tolerate a split in society, and we will not now. Today, we stand ready to take adequate measures to maintain peace and stability in our state. To do this, you need to clearly understand what some candidates are ready to do to achieve their goal, what resources they use to elevate their ratings. This may create additional threats,” Lukashenko said.

The presidential election in Belarus is scheduled for August 9, 2020. The first presidential election took place on June 23 (first round) and July 10, 1994 (second round). Alexander Lukashenko has been staying in office ever since. A referendum on amendments to Article 81 of the Constitution of Belarus, which abolished the limit of two five-year presidential terms for one person, was held on October 17, 2004. End

World Bank predicts 5.2% drop in global GDP in 2020

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. The World Bank (WB) predicts a 5.2% decrease in global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 after a 2.4% increase in 2019. The decline in Belarus’ GDP in 2020 was affirmed at 4%, reads in the WB’s June report published on June 8.

WB experts predict a decline of the Eurozone GDP in 2020 by 9.1%, the United States by 6.1%, Japan by 6.1%, Russia by 6%, and Poland by 4.2%. The economy of China in 2020 will only grow by 1%.

Many pandemic restrictions imposed by most countries have led to significant reductions in consumption and investment, as well as limited labour supply and shrank output. The closure of borders also disrupted the operation of financial and commodity markets, world trade, global production chains, tourism and the transport sector.

Many countries have embarked on large-scale macroeconomic support for domestic economies and the population through fiscal policy measures, which allowed them to stabilize financial markets and to count on the restoration of growth dynamics in 2021

According to the WB forecast, global GDP growth in 2021 will reach 4.2%: the Chinese economy by 6.9%, the Eurozone by 4.5%, the US by 4%, Poland by 2.8%, Russia by 2.7%, Japan by 2.5%, and Belarus by 1%.

The WB included in its June global economic outlook survey a forecast for development of the Belarusian economy published in April, in which, by the end of 2020, Belarus’ GDP is projected to decrease by 4%, inflation at 11.4%, current account deficit at 5.7% of GDP, and public debt at 59.2% of GDP.

“It is expected that in 2020, the economy will shrink by 4%, because the global economic downturn due to COVID-19 reduces demand for Belarus’ exports of investment goods to the European Union, Russia and other countries. Even if oil supplies from Russia resume, lower oil prices will sharply reduce foreign trade revenues, since customs duties on oil trade will be insignificant this year (compared with 1.1% of GDP in 2019), while Belarus will lose about 1.2% of GDP in recalculated revenues. Export and tax revenues may be reduced even more, if there are delays in signing long-term contracts for potash fertilizers. Repayment of a large debt to Russia for the construction of the nuclear power plant will put additional pressure on public finances,” reads the review.

WB experts assess the medium-term growth prospects of the Belarusian economy as weak, even taking into account expected global growth, restoration of oil prices and the resumption of Russian oil supplies. Therefore, in the short term, the main task of the authorities will be to ensure the adaptation of the economy to the deterioration of the external environment. At the same time, due to limited fiscal opportunities and growing funding needs, the effective distribution of costs will be of great importance. In this regard, the WB calls on the Belarusian government to mainly support solvent companies.

As previously reported, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a 3% reduction in world GDP in 2020, and estimates the total loss of the world economy in 2020–2021 at $9 trillion. According to the IMF forecast, the economies of developed countries will shrink in 2020 by 6.1%: Italy by 9.1%, Spain by 8%, France by 7.2%, Germany by 7%, Great Britain by 6.5%, Canada by 6.2%, the US by 5.9%, and Japan by 5.2%. The IMF estimates Belarus’ GDP decline at 6% and Russia at 5.5%. The IMF predicts 5.8% year-on-year global economic growth recovery in 2021. End

Belarus insists on revision of Russian gas prices for 2020 to “correct level” – Ministry of Energy

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. Belarus insists on a revision of the price of Russian natural gas for Belarus in 2020, defining its “correct and fair level,” says the press office of the Ministry of Energy of Belarus.

Minister of Energy of Belarus Viktor Karankevich, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak, Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Deputy Head of the Executive Committee, Advisor to the Chairman of Gazprom PJSC Alexander Meshkov held online talks on June 9 to discuss supplies of Russian gas in 2020. Pointing to the fact that the Russian gas prices for Europe showed a decrease in 2020 under both spot and long-term contracts, Belarus once again requested a revision of the price for Belarus to a “correct and fair level.”

“The parties exchanged views on payments for Russian gas supplied to Belarus. The latter’s position remains unchanged: in order to resolve disagreements between business entities regarding the price of gas, taking into account its calorific value, Gazprom Transgaz Belarus should provide a methodology for determining the actual average monthly calorific value of natural gas with metrological confirmation of its suitability in accordance with Belarusian legislation,” reads the statement.

Belarusian seeks to resolve the issue as soon as possible and find a mutually acceptable solution to continue cooperation in the gas sector. Gazprom said in late May 2020 that the company would be ready to start negotiations on gas supplies to Belarus from 2021 upon the repayment of Belarus’ debt for supplied gas, which is estimated at $165.6 million.

The Ministry of Energy of Belarus denies the debt, and only admits disagreements between business entities in determining the gas price with respect to its calorific value. The ministry sent proposals to Gazprom on terms of supply in 2020-2021, and requested a methodology for determining the calorific value of gas. In response, Gazprom said on June 8 that the gas price for Belarus in 2020 would not be revised, and confirmed its willingness to start negotiations on supplies in 2021, provided that Belarus respects the terms of the contract in force.

Belarus’ import of Russian gas totals 20 billion cubic meters per year. Belarus remains the second largest consumer of Russian gas after Germany. In February 2020, Miller and Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko approved the pricing procedure for the supply of Russian gas to Belarus in 2020. The price for Belarus remained at $127 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is the same as in 2019. Belarus has been insisting that Russian gas for Minsk should equal Russia’s domestic prices, as provided for by the 2011 agreement on the sale of Beltransgaz gas transmission company to Gazprom.

Former Prime Minister of Belarus Rumas said on May 14 that Belarus would try to persuade Gazprom in the May 2020 negotiations that the price of Russian gas ($127 per 1,000 cubic meters) was excessive, given that the price on European spot markets was at $80. Lukashenko stated that under current conditions, the price of Russian gas for Belarus should be $40-45 per 1,000 cubic meters, which includes logistics costs. End

Problem with Belarus’ gas debt brings to mind 2016-2017 gas conflict – expert

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. The problem with Belarus’ debt for supplied Russian natural gas brings to mind the gas conflict of 2016-2017, when Minsk unilaterally switched to paying a “fair price”, and its debt to Gazprom reached $700 million, says Igor Yushkov, leading expert at the National Energy Security Fund (Russia).

In January 2016, Minsk provoked an oil and gas conflict with Russia, refusing to pay the contract price of $132 per 1,000 cubic meters. Belarus then stated that $100 would be a “fair” price. As a result, by March 2017, its debt under the supply contract reached $726 million. In response, Russia significantly reduced oil supplies to Belarus, imposed administrative restrictions on imports from Belarus and froze loan tranches from the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development (EFSD). The conflict was resolved in March 2017 after Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko agreed on new contract gas prices: $141 per 1,000 cubic meters until the end of 2017, $129 in 2018 and $127 in 2019. Belarus completely repaid its debt to Gazprom in April 2017.

Although Belarus paid $726 million for gas supplied in 2016-2017 on April 13, the country still has not received $780 million in the promised compensatory interstate loan formally, to refinance the cost of servicing of the external public debt this year (the part owed to Russia). Belarusian Finance Minister Vladimir Amarin thus said on May 30 that coordination procedures for the Russian government loan were “nearing completion.” Putin’s promise to “unfreeze” the EFSD anti-crisis loan program was only fulfilled in part: Belarus received a $300 million tranche in late April, which had been delayed since last autumn.

This time, the current situation hardly suggests that such an outcome is possible, Yushkov says. “The presidents have met and disagreed more than once without compromise. Putin has now taken a rather tough stance: cheap energy commodities in exchange for further integration,” he says.

According to the expert, Belarus is looking for “a way to lower gas prices.” “The pointing at cheap gas in Europe did not help, so Minsk made an attempt to get a better price by reducing the tariff for gas transportation.”

 “There is an intergovernmental agreement in the public domain on the contract with Gazprom, which indicates the tariff for pumping gas from Yamal to the Russian-Belarusian border. It is quite high and is calculated in US dollars [Gazprom’s tariff for transporting gas from the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District to the Belarusian border is around $3 per 1,000 cubic meters per 100 km, the domestic Russian tariff is around $1]. This makes the price for Belarus relatively high. Under the contract, gas for Belarus should cost about $152 per 1,000 cubic meters now, but a supplemental agreement reduces it to $127. Putin has publicly stated that there will not be unification of gas transportation tariffs yet. Minsk is now trying to find another element in the pricing formula to cite it when trying to achieve a lower price: the calorific value of gas,” says the expert.

This means that Minsk makes claims to the quality of the gas it has been receiving for quite a while, or the calorific value of gas have fallen significantly in 2020. Anyway, this question should have been raised much earlier. Otherwise, it looks more like an attempt to bring the price down, rather than a solid point to negotiate,” Yushkov says.

As reported, in late May, Gazprom stated its readiness to begin negotiations on gas supplies to Belarus from 2021 onwards upon resolution of the debt issue. The Ministry of Energy of Belarus says there is no such debt, but there is a disagreement between business entities on determining the cost of gas “taking into account its calorific value.” The ministry sent proposals to Gazprom on a revision of the terms of gas supplies in 2020 and the pricing methodology for the period from January 1, 2021. The ministry also wants to view Gazprom Transgaz Belarus’ method applied to determine the calorific value of gas, since the parties have disagreements on this point.

Gazprom said on June 8 that the gas price for Belarus in 2020 would not be revised, and confirmed its willingness to start negotiations on supplies in 2021, provided that Belarus respects the terms of the contract in force.

Belarus’ import of Russian gas totals 20 billion cubic meters per year. Belarus remains the second largest consumer of Russian gas after Germany. In February 2020, Miller and Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko approved the pricing procedure for the supply of Russian gas to Belarus in 2020. The price for Belarus remained at $127 per 1,000 cubic meters, which is the same as in 2019. Belarus has been insisting that Russian gas for Minsk should equal Russia’s domestic prices, as provided for by the 2011 agreement on the sale of Beltransgaz gas transmission company to Gazprom. After oil quotations dropped in 2020 and so did gas prices on the European spot markets (to $80 per 1,000 cubic meters), Lukashenko argued that, given the global situation, the Russian gas tariff for Belarus should be at $40-45 per 1,000 cubic meters, including logistics costs. End

Tuesday forex session: ruble down 0.22% against dollar to Br2.3785/$1

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. Following the bidding at the single forex session of the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange (BCSE) in the format of a continuous two-way auction, the Belarusian ruble stood at Br2.3785/$1 to the dollar on Jun 9, down 0.22% on the previous day of trading, says the BCSE official report.

Following the bidding at the single forex session on Tuesday, the ruble stood at Br2.6783/€1 to the euro, up 0.20%; at Br3.4592/RUB100 to the Russian ruble, up 0.49%.

As reported, the National Bank of Belarus (NBB) on June 1, 2015 stopped the practice of fixing the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble to the basket of foreign currencies on a day-to-day basis and switched over to FX trading on the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange (BCSE) in the format of a continuous two-way auction.

The parties taking part in continuous two-way auctions at the BCSE are free to make bids and offers during the entire auction period, however deals will be made if the FX trading system bridges bids with relevant offers.

The weighted average rate of the US dollar, the euro and the Russian ruble shall be the National Bank’s official exchange rate of the relevant currency for the day that follows the day of trading.

 

At the moment, the exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble is pegged to the basket of foreign currencies, with the share of the Russian ruble standing at 50%, the US dollar – 30%, the euro – 20%. End

 

Naftan to receive first 7,000 tonnes of American oil on June 11, 2020 – Belneftekhim

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. Naftan OJSC (Novopolotsk, Vitebsk Oblast) will receive the first 7,000 tonnes of American oil on June 11, says Spokesman for Belneftekhim state petrochemical concern Alexander Tishchenko.

The tanker with 77,000 tonnes of oil from the United States intended for Belarus arrived at the port of Klaipeda (Lithuania) on June 5. The first batch of oil will be delivered from Klaipeda Novopolotsk by rail on the night of June 9.

This supply is part of a transaction of American energy trader United States Trading assisted by American Getka and their Polish partner UNIMOT. It will be the 12th tanker with oil for Belarus from sources alternative to Russia in 2020. End

First fuel to be loaded in 2nd power unit of Belarus’ NPP in December 2020

MINSK, Jun 9 – PrimePress. The first part of fuel will be loaded in the second power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant (Astravyets, Grodno Oblast) in December 2020, Mikhail Filimonov, CEO of the Belarusian NPP, told Respublika newspaper on June 9.

He says the second power unit is 72% ready for commissioning. Construction and installation works are nearing completion.

Belarus’ first nuclear power plant in Ostrovets (a town in the Grodno Region also referred to as Astravyets) will have two units with a combined capacity of up to 2,400 megawatts, which are slated to be launched in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The Belarusian nuclear station’s design stems from the AES-2006 design developed by the St Petersburg-based institute Atomenergoproject, which is also the general contractor of the Belarusian project.