18 January 2017, Wednesday, 8:58

”Solvent” smuggling goes on


The National Statistics Committee considerably changed the already published value of the balance of trade.

The updates were made due to the new data provided by the Belarusian Customs Committee. The additional information appeared to be the data on the export of solvents and lubricants, which has begun to grow again, naviny.by reports.

“Belarus completely stopped exporting solvents and thinners. The last railway car was loaded on August 4,” Belarusian PM Mikhail Myasnikovich said on September 14. The official statistics seems to confirm assurances of the authorities. Reports on foreign trade by the National Statistics Committee have been showing since August that the export of these suspicious products is almost zero.  

At the same time, officers of the  statistics committee demonstrate unexpected absent-mindedness. The committee  refined the data on the foreign trade in goods in January--September 2012. It was found out that the earlier released detailed operation report didn't mention the additional export at a sum of 73m dollars. The statistics committee put the new value of the trade surplus in January--September (1,387.8m instead of 1,313m) with a note “The data were corrected by the State Customs Committee of the Republic of Belarus”.

The same happened to the balance of trade in January--August. The detailed data showing the absence of the export of solvents and lubricants, which was promised to Russia, said that the surplus in January--August was 1,628m dollars. A month later, the statistics committee informed in a note that an error had been made and announced with a link to the State Customs Committee that the balance of trade for the first 8 months of the year was 44m dollars higher.

After Minsk reportedly stopped to export hydrocarbons disguised as oil products, the export of goods classified as “other chemical goods” in the commodity description slumped from 380,000 tonnes in July to 16,000 tonnes in August. The export of lubricants fell from 219,000 tonnes to slightly more than 2,000 tonnes. The “solvent business” considerably decreased in volume, though didn't stop. Taking into account that the export duty on petrol was $300 per tonne in August, Belarusian oil oligarchs from Lukashenka's retinue didn't pay approximately 5.5m dollars to Russia.

The suspicious export got a second wind in September. In accordance with the data of the Belarusian Statistics Committee, it was 45m dollars. The export of lubricants reached 22,000 tonnes in September, which is 10 times more than the export in August.

The trend gives reasons to suppose that the updated values, which will soon be published by the statistics committee for October, will be able to improve the data on the balance of foreign trade by more than 100m dollars.

Solvents and lubricants are probably not the only scheme that the Belarusian official statistics tries to hide. According to the Belarusian Customs Union, the export of solvents and lubricants was 45m dollars in September, but the statistics committee improved the country's balance of foreign trade by 73m dollars.

The matter is perhaps not the re-export of Russian petrol (Russia stopped naphtha supplies to Belarus in July), but the duty-free export of products of Belarusian refineries. It is quite possible that schemes of exporting petrol under the guise of other oil products or crude oil under guise of the processed one are used.

The duty-free export of hydrocarbons (most probably petrol) disguised as solvents and lubricants goes on, though its volumes have decreased.