The handwriting on the wall of the parlous state of the Belarus economy, which in the past two decades has signally failed to reform itself, has become evident in Minsk’s willingness to sell several of its industrial “crown jewels” to Russian concerns.
On 12 July, during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich stated that Minsk is prepared to sell seven of the most valuable Belarusian enterprises before adding, "I think that we have become too fixated on issues pertaining to petroleum processing and the trade in petroleum products."
The enterprises include a number of energy concerns that Belarus has steadfastly refused to consider selling up to now. According to Myasnikovich, talks are currently underway on the privatization of a package of companies -- Grodno Azot to be privatized with Sibur and Rosneft; Naftan with Lukoil; Beltransgaz with Gazprom; the Mozyr Oil Refinery with Rosneft; Mobile TeleSystems with the Sistema Joint-Stock Financial Corporation; the Minsk Truck Plant with Russian Machines and the Rostekhnologii State Corporation and Integral with Rostekhnologii, slon.ru reported.
The entry of the Russian firms into the Belarusan market marks a humiliating retreat for President Aleksandr Lukashenka, who had repeatedly denied selling off the country’s energy assets, particularly the Belttransgaz pipeline network, in return for Gazprom canceling the country’s massive debts for natural gas.
By. Joao Peixe, Deputy Editor OilPrice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com