Oct 19, 2021
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Smuggling: Daddy Darkens with Oil and Weapons

In the photo: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

In the photo: President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. (Photo: Sergei Grits / AP / TASS)

Belarus has increased the secrecy of its merchandise exports to foreign markets. According to the results of seven months of 2021, the statistics on supplies for $ 8.2 billion turned out to be closed. Of these, about 1.3 billion falls on Russia, which is about 15% of all Belarusian merchandise exports to our country. Last year, the volume of all “secret” supplies amounted to only $ 1.6 billion. The total volume of Belarusian exports in January-July 2021 amounted to $ 21 billion, which is 36% more than in the same period last year.

Belstat traditionally did not disclose information about the volume and value of exports of such goods as tobacco, precious metals, aircraft and their parts, weapons, ammunition, chemical radioactive elements. But this year, against the background of tougher Western sanctions, other products were added to them, in particular, such important articles of Belarusian production as oil, oil products, mineral fertilizers, tractors and trucks. Last year, according to statistics, the export of oil, oil products and fertilizers exceeded $ 6 billion, trucks and tractors – $ 1.2 billion, so the multiple increase in “secret” articles is understandable.

According to the results of seven months of 2021, the total volume of Belarusian exports to the Russian Federation amounted to $ 8.71 billion, of which $ 7.42 billion was opened. part of the supplies.

According to the Federal Customs Service (FCS), export from Belarus under the secret code is only $ 3.7 million. Most of the articles turned out to be quite accessible – imports of tractors amounted to $ 207 million, trucks – $ 446 million, fertilizers – $ 20 million, mineral fuel – $ 67 million

Goods worth $ 556 million have been shipped to the item designated Country Unknown. Another 151 million were closed exports to the United States – the media suggests that these are potash fertilizers, which came under EU and US sanctions.

Recall that in June 2021, the European Union introduced the first package of sectoral sanctions against Belarus, limiting the import of petroleum products and potash fertilizers. In August, the United States partly joined these measures, adding the Belarusian manufacturer Belaruskali to the sanctions list. In addition, the UK has banned the import of Belarusian oil products and potash fertilizers. Tractors and freight transport did not fall under the restrictions, but, apparently, Minsk decided to hedge against the future by making these deliveries secret.

And perhaps not in vain. On October 15, the FRG government proposed to the EU to expand sanctions against the Belarusian authorities in order to prevent the transport of illegal migrants to Europe. The Federal Police of the Federal Republic of Germany reported that more than 4.3 thousand illegal migrants arrived from the beginning of August through Belarus to Germany (through the territory of Poland). Basically, we are talking about immigrants from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran.

Andrey Suzdaltsev, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, National Research University Higher School of Economics believes that the closure of statistical data on exports may be associated not only with the desire of Minsk to bypass the sanctions, but also with the smuggling of European products, which are becoming increasingly widespread

– I have been dealing with the Belarusian topic for over 30 years and we constantly face the problems of Belarusian statistics. Even indicators such as electricity generation for a certain volume of products, which can be compared with neighboring countries, each time give incomprehensible figures. This suggests that the statistics are not fully verified or reliable.

With regard to exports, as well as imports, there have always been difficulties. Belarus is one of the world leaders in market closure, despite the fact that the Russian market is completely open for it, and it is with us in the process of integration. But we must remember that Belarus is also one of the largest smuggling hubs in Europe.

Smuggling there is a completely official branch of the economy. There are numerous shops for repacking goods, trucks with conditional Polish apples, according to documents, instantly turn into Belarusian ones. I remember that in February 2019, several trucks with ripe earthen, not greenhouse “Belarusian” tomatoes were detained at the Russian border. In fact, this is a huge volume, which reaches several thousand trucks per day. From time to time, problems arise in some areas, such as, for example, with the supply of fresh flowers from the Netherlands through Belarus to Russia.

But in general, we can say that smuggling is a state industry in Belarus. We still receive a lot of goods from Ukraine and Poland – meat, milk, raw milk, cheeses, but they come to us with Belarusian labels and documents. Hence, such leaps in Belarusian exports, which can grow by tens of percent at once, although the productivity and scale of the economy have not grown so much.

Several years ago, the Belarusian Minister of Agriculture said that they were ready to increase the supply of raw milk to Russia by 40%. But how can this be done quickly if the cows have been growing for three years? And when these volumes of milk supplies were calculated, it turned out that cows in Belarus should stand not only on all fields, but also in city parks, the discrepancy was so great.

In addition, it happens that the total amount for a certain sector is known and it is acceptable, but what exactly is supplied in this segment is not known. I suspect that in this case we can talk about the supply of weapons to some countries of the world that the authorities do not want to advertise.

So one shouldn’t be surprised that the volume of “secret” articles of the Belarusian economy is growing. And the fact that this is happening with government statistics suggests that the government itself is probably the customer of these supplies.

“SP”: – Can the concealment of statistics on individual export items help to avoid the sanctions of Europe and the United States against the supply of potash fertilizers or petroleum products?

– You need to understand that the sanctions against potash fertilizers in Belarus are not working yet. In the best case, they will start working in December, when the current contracts, which are not subject to restrictions, expire. As for petroleum products, there are questions already. But Belarus is trying to supply them through Russian ports and not show them too much, since the Russian companies that will export these products may themselves be subject to restrictions.

Of course, these export items will be even more closed and classified, especially with regard to fertilizers, since now in Minsk they are very actively discussing how to do so in order to export potassium to the world market. So far, the sanctions have not come into force, but, as we can see, Belarus is preparing for this. The concealment of export items is explained, among other things, by the fact that the Belarusian side is trying not to show off these supplies.

“SP”: – How great will the losses of the Belarusian economy be if it is still impossible to get these export items out of the sanctions?

– Prime Minister of Belarus Roman Golovchenko said that the damage from the sanctions will be about $ 4.5 billion. This is a colossal figure for the republic. But they are calm, because they are sure that Russia will compensate them for everything. They believe that Russia is obliged to help them and supply goods to world markets, and simply help with money.

Sanctions are generally a very convenient thing. They demonstrate to the West that it destroys the national economy and the economy of Belarus; this is a reason to explain to the population why products and communal services are becoming more expensive. And for Russia, these sanctions are inflated and presented in such a way that Belarus, as an advanced anti-Western outpost, suffers for its sake. Whether all this is necessary for Russia itself is a rhetorical question. But even under the incident with the Ryanair plane, Belarusian experts tied Moscow up, “closing” themselves with us. The same will be the case with the issue of sanctions.

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