The purpose of this article is to provide a general overview of the current economic and social situation in Belarus to make better sense of its current reorientation crisis and to assess the country in terms of potential investment opportunities.
We shall briefly review the main aspects of the Belarusian production-oriented economy, describe the current state of affairs in its foreign trade relations and look at the condition of the country’s financial sector. We shall pay special attention to Abdo Romeo Abdo’s experience in the construction industry to assess the potential opportunities offered by that sector of the Belarusian economy.
Even though its pace of growth has slowed down significantly in the last couple of years, the fundamental characteristics of the Belarusian economy remain unchanged.
- It relies heavily on the production industry, and the production is mainly export-oriented.
- Instead of being limited to the processing of natural resources, the Belarusian industry focuses on producing high-tech commodities, such as computing hardware, software technologies, electronic and optical equipment.
- To achieve those goals, the Belarusian industry employs highly skilled workers.
- The country strives to expand its export markets by maintaining an unbiased 360-degree international orientation. Instead of exporting mainly to Russia and the CIS countries as it used to do until recently, Belarus now sells almost half of its export commodities to the European Union and the United Kingdom.
- Two factors greatly facilitate that general strategy:
- The country is located on the trade routes between the major continental markets;
- Its well-developed infrastructure is characterised by efficient transportation, effective logistics and simplified communication procedures.
Belarusian Investment Market
Until recently, Belarus managed to maintain a favourable atmosphere for foreign investors. The fact that over two-thirds of all the money from abroad came as FDI suggests that foreign investors found the economic and political situation in the country profitable and stable.
Fortunately, the Belarusian government still exhibits foreigner-friendly attitudes and intends to maintain transparent and mutually profitable cooperation. A realistic assessment of the investment opportunities in Belarus should consider the following main aspects of the current situation in that sector:
- Belarus exhibits the same geographically unbiased attitude in that field as in its foreign trade relations. The concentration of Russian investments is still high, and yet, Belarus is still a member of several international financial institutions, including the World Bank.
- China continues to penetrate the financial sector of the country’s economy with an undeniable intention of building mutually profitable economic relations, which the Belarusian government seems to welcome.
Belarusian Banking Sector
The six biggest commercial banks that used to dominate the country’s financial sector seem to have fallen under almost complete control by the Central Bank and the president. On the other hand, the government provides foreign investors with relatively lenient taxation and high protection of their financial assets.
The overall impression is that the government’s more or less direct interference in the Belarusian banking industry may be part of its home affairs. It might not necessarily affect its mutually beneficial cooperation with foreign investors and could very possibly not be related to them at all.
Building Materials and the Construction Business
One very well-developed sector of the Belarusian industry is the production of building materials. Those materials are valued in foreign markets for their low prices and high quality. That is particularly relevant for the opportunities it creates in the context of commercial property construction.
Abdo Romeo Abdo’s successful business activity suggests that the investment in the construction of the commercial property may be one of the most lucrative enterprises in Belarus. Abdo Romeo Abdo’s two construction companies have been building commercial and business centres in Minsk for a quarter of a century. He came to Belarus as an undergraduate student, and his construction business has worked well enough for him to hold 99% of shares in one of the country’s largest banks.
It might be too early to try and make sense of the changes Belarus is going through, and the final verdict on the country as a target for investment rests with the reader. We hope the information provided in this article will help you decide whether the investment opportunities provided by the Belarusian economy seem attractive and safe.