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Presidential election played role as catalyst for economic crisis, expert says


Belarus’ December 2010 presidential election played a role as a catalyst for economic problems that have hit the country this year, Syarhey Balykin, leader of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses, said in an interview with BelaPAN on Monday.

“Hardly anyone will dispute that the country has been hit by an economic catastrophe this year,” said Mr. Balykin. “The Belarusian rubel dropped almost threefold against foreign currencies and consumer prices soared, resulting in drastic inflation whose rate, even according to official statisticians, exceeded 100 percent. It was a result of the economic policy pursued by the authorities ahead of the 2010 election.”

The authorities pumped “hollow money” into the economy and used an administrative lever to raise average pay in the country to $500 a month, said Mr. Balykin.

Meanwhile, he said, the measures were not needed to secure Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s victory in the election, as few doubted that he would be reelected for a fourth term.

“The Belarusian authorities became a hostage to statistics fetishism,” said Mr. Balykin. “Achieving various growth indicators became an end in itself, with a nice report placing higher up on the priority list of government officials than steps toward the real improvement of the quality of life. For the sake of nice figures, the authorities made decisions that later plunged the country into the financial crisis.”

“Signs of the looming disaster could be observed in 2010,” he said. “There was, of course, a time lag for the negative effects to become apparent. The beautiful picture started collapsing at the beginning of the spring. Unfortunately, the government failed to take adequate measures in time to control the depreciation of the Belarusian rubel, preferring to sit and wait for the situation to settle down on its own, as it used to do previously.”

Mr. Balykin expressed regret that the Belarusian opposition had failed to use the evident mistakes on the part of the authorities to its advantage during the 2010 presidential campaign.
None of the pro-democratic candidates warned the voters about the looming devaluation of the national currency and price hikes, he added. //BelaPAN

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