Economic and Political Overview

flag Belarus Belarus: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

On February 24, 2022, Russia initiated a military conflict on the Ukrainian territory, dragging in Belarus as its ally facilitating the invasion of Ukraine, which profoundly upsets the current political context in these countries and will have substantial political and economic ramifications. For the ongoing updates on the developments of Russia-Ukraine conflict please consult the dedicated pages on BBC News.

Belarus is undergoing an economic transition, inheriting structural features from the former Soviet bloc. The country heavily relies on Russia, its largest trading partner, and to a lesser extent on Ukraine, whose economic and political situation has negatively influenced Belarus in recent years, particularly following the Russian invasion. Belarus traditionally procures gas and oil at reduced prices from Russia, and much of its growth stems from re-exporting Russian oil at market prices. Despite the growth of the private sector since the end of the Soviet bloc, it remains modest. Large subsidies to state-owned enterprises are unlikely to boost GDP growth in the short term, according to the World Bank. In 2022, Belarus's GDP decreased by 3.7% due to Western sanctions in response to its facilitation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, leading to elevated inflation, supply-chain disruptions, limited household consumption, and hindered exports. However, according to the national statistical committee Belstat, Belarus's GDP grew 3.9% in 2023 to BYN 261.1 billion at constant prices. Nevertheless, the economy is projected to slow to 1.3% in 2024 and 0.6% in 2025 (IMF) due to persisting supply-side constraints, reduced employment, intricate supply chains, and limited technology access. Export prospects for 2024 appear dim due to anticipated declines in Russian GDP growth and diminishing price advantages in the Russian market, resulting from the Belarusian ruble's strengthening against the Russian ruble (Eurasian Development Bank).

Since the financial crisis in 2011, Belarus's economy has been influenced by significant internal and external imbalances, heavily supported by loans from Russia. Consequently, the economy is vulnerable to external shocks and fluctuations in Russia's economic performance. The debt-to-GDP ratio stood at 44.1% in 2023, up from 41.3% the previous year, and is expected to remain relatively stable, at 44.2% in 2024 and 43.3% in 2025 (IMF). Approximately one-third of the debt is held in foreign currencies, increasing risks associated with the depreciation of the Belarusian ruble. The government budget recorded a deficit of 0.2% of GDP in 2023 and is forecast to turn positive by 0.6% and 1.3% in 2024 and 2025, respectively. After peaking at the beginning of the year, average annual inflation was expected to be 4.7% in 2023 by the IMF, with a probable uptick to 5.7% this year.

Belarus exhibits relatively low levels of poverty and inequality, with a poverty rate of 4.8% according to the latest figures from the World Bank. However, the country faces uneven progress in transitioning to a market economy and democracy, and the current economic and political crisis threatens to increase poverty levels. The unemployment rate stood at 4% last year and is projected to decrease by 0.5 percentage points by 2025, according to the IMF.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 72.8468.8666.3366.6368.18
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) -3.71.61.30.60.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 7,8697,4777,2387,3087,515
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -3.4-0.20.61.31.3
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 41.344.144.243.341.5
Inflation Rate (%) n/a4.75.74.25.0
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 4.24.03.63.53.5
Current Account (billions USD) 2.681.891.321.020.58
Current Account (in % of GDP) 3.72.72.01.50.8

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Belarus possesses several natural resources on its territory, including wood, minerals, small fields of oil and natural gas, granite, limestone, clay, sand, peat, and dolomite. Agriculture accounts for 7.7% of the country's GDP and employs 11% of the working population (World Bank, latest data available). The main agricultural products are beef, pork, poultry, milk, and cereals (including potatoes, vegetables, cucurbits, and seeds). Belarus is the world's third-largest producer of rye and flax fiber. The country is also among the largest exporters of butter, chicken, and cheese globally. Nearly 60% of agricultural production is concentrated in highly subsidized state-owned cooperative farms, inherited from kolkhozes, which formed the basis of the Soviet Union's agricultural policy. Belarusian agriculture heavily depends on the Russian market, to which it exports around 90% of its agricultural products. In 2023, the total agricultural output from all categories of agricultural producers amounted to BYN 33.1 billion, marking a 1.1% increase compared to the previous year when adjusted for comparable prices, according to data from the National Statistics Committee.

Industry contributes 33.2% of the country's GDP and employs around 30% of the active population. As a former country of the USSR, Belarus has a developed but ageing industrial base that is heavily subsidized. The main industries include machine tools, agricultural equipment, fertilizers, petroleum and chemical products, food products (including beverages and tobacco), prefabricated building materials, motor vehicles, textiles, and household goods equipment (such as refrigerators, watches, televisions, and radios). The manufacturing sector alone contributes 24% of the country’s GDP, mainly due to the manufacture of food products and coke and refined petroleum products. According to Belstat, in 2023, the volume of industrial production in current prices stood at BYN 187.3 billion, up by 7.7% compared to one year earlier.

The tertiary sector contributes 48.3% of GDP and has experienced significant growth since the break-up of the USSR, employing 59% of the working population. Key sectors include financial services, information technology, transportation, and tourism. Transport services, accounting for almost 42% of the country's total services exports and more than 50% of the balance of foreign trade in services, make up around 6% of GDP. Commerce is also a crucial economic sector, contributing substantially to the nation's GDP, with its proportion amounting to 9.4% in 2019, ranking second only to manufacturing (latest official government data available).

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 8.1 32.6 59.4
Value Added (in % of GDP) 7.7 33.2 48.3
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.4 -6.1 -5.4

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Belarussian Rubble (BYR) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 331.830.060.060.060.06

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
61/100
World Rank:
95
Regional Rank:
43

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

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Foreign Trade in Figures

The Belarusian economy is predominantly state-owned, with over 70% of GDP generated by public or parastatal enterprises. Simultaneously, it remains highly open to international trade, which constitutes 122% of its GDP (World Bank, latest data available). Belarus exports a variety of products including oil and petroleum products, fertilizers, trucks and tractors, spare parts, milk and cheese, meat products, furniture and timber, and tires. A significant portion of its manufactured goods, over 60%, is exported to foreign markets. Notably, the mechanical engineering industry plays a crucial role, with 75% of goods in this segment sold outside the country (official governmental data). On the import side, Belarus primarily brings in petroleum oils, petroleum gas, motorized vehicles for passenger transport, and medicaments (data by Comtrade).

In 2022, Belarus' major trading partners included Russia (35.0%), Poland (4.0%), Ukraine (3.0%), Lithuania (3.0%), and Germany (2.0%). Conversely, imports were chiefly sourced from Russia (28.6%), China (8.1%), Germany (3.6%), Ukraine (3.4%), and Poland (2.5% - data Comtrade). Due to historical ties from the Soviet era, Belarus' economy remains heavily concentrated on the Russian market, serving as both a major outlet and supplier. Notably, in 2022, Belarus achieved a trade surplus with Russia for the first time. Recent developments have seen strengthened trade relations with China, particularly through Beijing's New Silk Road project. However, the European Union, Belarus' second-largest trading partner, withheld ratification of the bilateral partnership and cooperation agreement due to concerns over "Belarus' lack of commitment to democracy and political and civil rights."

Belarus' trade balance has experienced fluctuations in recent years. In 2022, exports amounted to USD 22.8 billion (-42.6% y-o-y) for goods and USD 9.2 billion (-10.8%) for commercial services, while imports totaled USD 38.6 billion (-6.6% y-o-y) for goods and USD 5 billion (-11.3%) for commercial services (data by WTO). The World Bank reports Belarus registered a trade surplus of 5.8% of GDP in 2022 (from 5.6% one year earlier). Preliminary figures from Belstat indicate that in 2023, the foreign trade turnover of Belarus reached USD 83.4 billion, with exports at USD 40.1 billion and imports totaling USD 43.2 billion.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 38,40939,47732,76741,38738,655
Exports of Goods (million USD) 33,72632,95529,17939,76222,793
Imports of Services (million USD) 5,4065,8524,8475,6765,033
Exports of Services (million USD) 8,8389,6428,78810,3139,201
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 25.35.1-7.45.7-18.1
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 12.91.0-3.710.1-20.8
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 68.965.857.965.257.9
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 70.565.161.070.863.7
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,503-4,193-1,993-667385
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 929-4031,9483,9714,566
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 139.4130.9118.9136.0121.6

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2021
Russia 35.0%
Poland 4.0%
Ukraine 3.0%
Lithuania 3.0%
Germany 2.0%
See More Countries 53.0%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2021
Russia 28.6%
China 8.1%
Germany 3.6%
Ukraine 3.4%
Poland 2.5%
See More Countries 53.7%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

39.9 bn USD of products exported in 2021
Cheese and curdCheese and curd 3.0%
Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled,...Wood sawn or chipped lengthwise, sliced or peeled, whether or not planed, sanded or end-jointed, of a thickness of > 6 mm 2.0%
Furniture and parts thereof, n.e.s. (excl. seats...Furniture and parts thereof, n.e.s. (excl. seats and medical, surgical, dental or veterinary furniture) 1.6%
Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not...Bars and rods, of iron or non-alloy steel, not further worked than forged, hot-rolled, hot-drawn or hot-extruded, but incl. those twisted after rolling (excl. in irregularly wound coils) 1.4%
Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added...Milk and cream, concentrated or containing added sugar or other sweetening matter 1.4%
See More Products 90.7%
41.8 bn USD of products imported in 2021
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 2.9%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 1.4%
Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles...Parts and accessories for tractors, motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, motor vehicles for the transport of goods and special purpose motor vehicles of heading 8701 to 8705, n.e.s. 1.2%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 1.1%
Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of...Ferrous waste and scrap; remelting scrap ingots of iron or steel (excl. slag, scale and other waste from the production of iron or steel; radioactive waste and scrap; fragments of pigs, blocks or other primary forms of pig iron or spiegeleisen) 1.1%
See More Products 92.3%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Finance (in Belarusian only)
Ministry of Energy
Statistical Office
The Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of the Republic of Belarus
Central Bank
National Bank of the Republic of Belarus
Stock Exchange
Belarusian Stock Exchange
Search Engines
Akavita
Zubr
Economic Portals
Portal of the Republic of Belarus

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
President: Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (since 20 July 1994)
Prime Minister: Roman GOLOVCHENKO (since 4 June 2020)
Next Election Dates
Presidential: 2025
National Assembly: 2027
Main Political Parties

Political parties in support of the President have a strong chance of securing seats during elections. Opposition parties are allowed to participate in elections but usually have no real chance of gaining power. Elections are generally marred by electoral fraud, and in 2019 OECD observers determined that the election was neither free nor impartial, with problems in the counting of the votes. The latest Presidential elections held in 2020 were contested, with numerous countries refusing to accept the results, including the European Union, which imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials.

The current largest political forces represented in the parliament following the 2024 election all support president Lukashenko. They are:

- Belaya Rus: a public association that supports President Lukashenko, Russophilia, Euroscepticism
- Republican Party of Labor and Justice: centre-left, socialism
- Communist Party of Belarus (CPB): left-wing, liaises with numerous other communist parties
- Liberal Democratic Party (LDP): right-wing, conservative.

Other parties/organizations include:

Pro-government:

  • Belarusian Agrarian Party
  • Belarusian Patriotic Party
  • Belarusian Social Sport Party
  • Republican Party
  • Social Democratic Party of Popular Accord

Opposition:

  • Belarusian Christian Democracy Party
  • Belarusian Party of the Green
  • Belarusian Party of the Left "Just World"
  • Belarusian Social-Democratic Assembly
  • Belarusian Social Democratic Party
  • Belarusian Social Democratic Party
  • BPF Party
  • Christian Conservative Party-BPF
  • United Civic Party.
Type of State
Officially a Republic based on parliamentary democracy; although it is considered an authoritarian or dictatorship regime by most Western states.
Executive Power
The President is the Chief of the State and is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, with no term limits. The President holds executive powers. The Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers and the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President and approved by the National Assembly.
Legislative Power
The legislature in Belarus is bicameral. The parliament, called the National Assembly, consists of two chambers: the Council of the Republic (the upper house), consisting of 64 seats, out of which 56 members are elected by regional councils and 8 members appointed by the President, all for four-year terms; and the House of Representatives (the lower house), consisting of 110 seats with all of its members elected by universal adult suffrage to serve four-year terms. The people of Belarus have limited political rights.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
158/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the government of Belarus, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: March 2024