The Belarusian authorities turned to be not ready for the Russian "tax maneuver".
On Thursday, July 5, the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted the "tax maneuver" in the oil and gas industry. It means a gradual zeroing of the export tax on oil by 2024 and simultaneous its price growth stipulated by the tax growth for natural resources.
In this case the cost of the Russian oil drastically increases for Belarus and equals to world prices. In addition, being the part of the common customs territory, Belarus is subject to abolition of export tax on oil and oil products. As a result, Belarus may lose 20% of its income.
The Belarusian authorities recognize their unfitness for the Russian "tax maneuver". First Deputy Prime Minister Maksim Yermalovich stated that his agency had not yet assessed losses.
What political consequences does the Russian "tax maneuver" bear for Belarus? Representative of the Belarusian National Congress in Homel Ales Yauseyenka and economist Leu Marholin answer questions of Charter97.org.
Lukashenka is being put into a strait jacket.
Lukashenka has long driven himself into the corner and he is not capable of keeping away from Russia now, Leu Marholin says.
- As soon as the tax maneuver is accomplished, the dependence of the Belarusian regime on the Kremlin will grow. It should be recalled that our economy is closely tied to the Russian oil and gas, to export of agricultural and industrial products. If now some "western oriented-way" in exports is possible, after the tax maneuver is accomplished it will be almost zeroed. However, it's natural: Lukashenka has tied himself to Russia with thousands of threads.
Russia is fond of using its oil and gas "lever" to control neighboring countries, Ales Yauseyenka says.
- Just recall how it was in Ukraine: first Russia tried to control the oil and gas sector. I think that Lukashenka will fall under even stricter control of Russia. And the "independence" of the Belarusian policy will be more restricted, although it cannot boast of independence now. Lukashenka is being put into a strait jacket.
The dictator is ready to sell the refinery at a bargain
It's quite possible that Russia will seize Belarusian refineries, Leu Marholin assumes.
- The irony is that Lukashenka has lost his position here, and he will have to sell them at a bargain. Five years ago Russia would have gladly captured them, because the profitability of the refinery sector had been better than that in Russia. But Russia has reconstructed its refineries. On the other hand, the "tax maneuver" makes exports of Belarusian oil products unprofitable. Belarusian refineries will be the stone on the neck of the government and Lukashenka will be glad to sell them at a bargain.
Russia has enough resources to "wrestle" Belarusian refineries, Ales Yauseyenka is convinced:
- Lukashenka is a poor hand at this game against Russia. The potential is irreconcilable. In addition, he has to take part in this game. Just remember the story when he wanted to sell Gomselmash to Chinese, and they refused. And it's quite possible that Lukashenka will sell Gomselmash, Novopolotsk and Mozyr refineries at a bargain so that he could stay afloat for a while. According to me, he is ready for such kind of "deals".
It may bear grave consequences
If the "tax maneuver" had been accomplished right now, it would have born disastrous consequences for the economy and the government, Leu Marholin asserts.
- But the process takes six years, some forms of hybrid and half-way forms of increase of control over the regime will be developed. Putin should refrain from abrupt moves towards Belarus, as it may cause a patchy response of the West. It is likely that Russia will enhance its economic control over Lukashenka: Moscow will feed his power in Belarus, and Lukashenka, in his turn, will be more obedient and refrain from moves the lords of the Kremlin did not like.
20% of the budget is a great loss for Belarus, Ales says.
- It may bear grave consequences for our country. It's another reason for Lukashenka to guarantee the extension of his power in exchange of the part of the sovereignty. What does minus 20% to the budget mean? It means cuts in law enforcement agency and administration. Will Lukashenka agree for replacement of a part his enforcement agencies with Russian ones? I guess, yes. Take a look at the latest parade: Russian and Chinese military were marching in Minsk. The Belarusian military do not march either in Moscow or Beijing. The moral Rubicon has been already crossed by the regime.
For a while Lukashenka played independent policy line with Russia. He was squirming before signing customs agreements. Now it's the end for him. Now Russia can have the upper hand. Guy, you should recognize the annexation of the Crimea, "independence" of Abkhazia and so on. And he will do it; after all, the dictator has the air supply shut off.
Fight for independence of Belarus is the fight for democratic changes.
Ales Yauseyenka believes that patriots of Belarus should distinguish between the fight to preserve independence and the one to retain the power of Lukashenka:
- We, patriots of Belarus, should make every effort to preserve freedom of our country, if we observe either direct occupation of Russia or the regime of external control. It may lead up to the establishment of a shadow government. Now the one thing to remember is that Lukashenka's "regime" aims at "surrender" of the sovereignty. And the fight for independence of Belarus is the fight for democratic changes.