Country Report Belarus December 1998 Main report

Foreign trade & payments: Exports to Russia have decreased sharply --

Belarus's exports to Russia continued their upward trend during the first six months of the year. However, figures for July and August show an alarming drop in month-on-month exports to Russia, which has since accelerated. In the first six months of the year average monthly export revenue from trade with Russia stood at $421m. Exports to Russia fell to $401m in July and then to $346m in August. They have since dropped even more steeply, to $240m in September (a year-on-year fall of 45%) and $170m in October. Much of this decline is owing to the collapse of the banking system in Russia that began with the crisis in August and which resulted in suspension of payments for imports. Yet even with the recovery of the banking system exports to Russia and other CIS states will remain sharply lower because of reduced demand. Already, Belarus has begun denominating export contracts in dollars rather than Russian roubles, which has significantly raised the price of Belarusian goods for Russian importers.

-- and non-CIS exports have dropped as well

Recent data show a dramatic decline in exports to non-CIS markets of 8.3% during the first eight months of 1998, in comparison with the corresponding period in 1997. Exports to non-CIS markets as a percentage of total trade have fallen consistently and now comprise only 23.1% of total trade, down from over 40% in 1996. In the first eight months of 1998 the share of exports to non-CIS markets, as a percentage of Belarus's total exports, had fallen by almost 4%, while Belarus's reliance on the Russian market had risen by over 5% as a percentage of total exports. These recent trends in the country's trade structure do not bode well for its ability to protect itself from the current regional turmoil.

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