Belarus

Capital:Minsk
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Belarus has seen limited structural reform since 1995, when President LUKASHENKO launched the country on the path of "market socialism." In keeping with this policy, LUKASHENKO reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. Since 2005, the government has re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subjected to pressure by central and local governments, including arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of "disruptive" businessmen and factory owners. Continued state control over economic operations hampers market entry for businesses, both domestic and foreign. Government statistics indicate GDP growth was strong, surpassing 10% in 2008, despite the roadblocks of a tough, centrally directed economy with a high rate of inflation and a low rate of unemployment. However, the global crisis pushed the country into recession in 2009, and GDP grew only 0.2% for the year. Slumping foreign demand hit the industrial sector hard. Minsk has depended on a standby-agreement with the IMF to assist with balance of payments shortfalls. In line with IMF conditions, in 2009, Belarus devalued the ruble more than 40% and tightened some fiscal and monetary policies. On 1 January 2010, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus launched a customs union, with unified trade regulations and customs codes still under negotiation. In late January, Russia and Belarus amended their 2007 oil supply agreement. The new terms raised prices for above quota purchases, increasing Belarus' current account deficit. GDP grew 4.8% in 2010, in part, on the strength of renewed export growth. In December 2010, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to form a Common Economic Space and Russia removed all Belarusian oil duties.

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