About Belarus

75.8%

urban population

70.7

life expectancy at birth

30%

women seats in parliament

31

Gender Inequality Index ranking

Introduction

Alt text for imageMirsky Castle / Photo: UNDP Belarus

The Republic of Belarus (Belarus) is located in the Eastern part of Europe. The country is divided into six regions (oblasts): Brest, Homiel, Hrodna, Mahiliou, Minsk and Viciebsk.

The capital city of Belarus is Minsk, the biggest political, economic, scientific and cultural centre of the country. The population of Minsk is 1 982 500 (beginning of 2018) people.

The territory of Belarus covers 207,595 square kilometres. The longest distance, 650 km, is from the West to the East, and 560 km from the North to the South.

The population of Belarus is 9 478 200 people (July 2018). Representatives of more than 100 nationalities live in Belarus. The majority of the population is represented by the indigenous Belarussians, who constitute more than 3/4 of the entire population.

The terrain of Belarus is predominantly low, hilly and flat. Agricultural land occupies 42.29% of the territory, forests account for 42.55%. There are more than 20,8 thousand rivers and creeks with total length of 91 thousand kilometersб and about 10,000 lakes in Belarus. The biggest lake is the Narach Lake (about 80 square kilometres).

About 30 types of mineral raw materials have been prospected in Belarus. The most significant are potassium salts, the reserves of which occupy one of the leading places in Europe. Belarus is the main producer of cement and hydrocarbons in Europe. The country is the world's third largest producer of potash fertilizers. Belarus is also rich in rock products and has vast reserves of peat. The deposits of oil are insignificant. There are more than 60 mineral water springs on the territory of the country.

Belarus remains an economy in transition, with structural characteristics inherited from the former Soviet bloc. Belarus adheres to the socially-oriented model of the market economy when selective state control over some spheres of economic activity is maintained: over 50% of people are employed by state-owned companies.

The country's economy is depended on Russia, which is the largest trading partner. Belarus traditionally obtains gas and oil from Russia. The country's main exports include heavy machinery (especially tractors), agricultural products, and energy products.

Belarus has relatively low levels of poverty and inequality, with an unemployment rate remaining significantly low: less than 1% of the labour force.

Belarus is committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda and has already taken a number of relevant steps at the national level. Upon the decision of President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko the post of National Coordinator on implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Council for Sustainable Development on implementation of the 2030 Agenda were established to foster the SDGs achievement.

Belarus has become one of the 44 countries to regularly report on the SDGs implementation status in the country on a voluntary basis.

 

Modern History

Belarus gained its independence in 1991. On 19 September 1991, the name of the state was adopted – the Republic of Belarus. The city of Minsk became the headquarters of the successor to the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States.

In 1994, the country’s new Constitution was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus, and the presidential system was put in place.  

The same year, the first presidential elections were held. Alexander Lukashenko became the first president of the country. He introduced polices designed to strengthen ties with Russia.

In 1995 a friendship and cooperation pact signed with Russia. National referenda resulted in a new flag almost identical to that of the former Soviet republic, and the restoration of Russian as an official language. The president's powers were also widened.

A treaty to set up the Union State of Belarus and Russia was signed in 1999, and an action programme to implement the agreement was adopted.

In 2000 Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan signed a treaty that established the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC). In November 2009, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia signed a set of documents that created a Customs Union as of 1 January 2010.

The next stage of integration featured the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) on 01 January 2015 by four founding states - Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia. Kyrgyzstan joined officially in August 2015.

Challenges

Relations with the European Union

Since the 1996 referendum, Belarus’ relations with the EU and USA have been challenging. Except a short period of rapprochement in 2008-2010, relations have mainly been tense. However, trade relations, especially with the EU, are pragmatic. The EU is currently Belarus’ second trading partner after Russia.

For the EU, Belarus is an important ‘gate-keeper’ which buffers it from illegal migration and human and drug trafficking from the East. For Belarus, the EU (and the West in general) is a crucial counterbalance to its changeful relations with Russia. The EU and Belarus continue developing cooperatioin after a period of disagreements in the areas of human rights, democracy, civil liberties, death penalty issue, as well as the EU's restrictive measures against Belarus. The country also strives to adopt a role of a bridge linking the EU and the EAEU.

The 2010 presidential elections were followed by a protracted diplomatic escalation with the EU: several rounds of targeted sanctions against Belarusian officials and companies, mutual expulsions of diplomats, etc. At the end of 2012, Minsk began to make small attempts at brining the relations back on track. In November 2013, Belarus declared its readiness to launch visa liberalization talks with the EU and consultations began in 2014.

Economic development

Belarus has pursued a gradual transition path, characterized by limited structural reforms and a modest reorganization of Soviet production networks. Instead of privatization and a reliance on the private sector as the main driver of growth, policies have focused on upgrading large state-owned enterprises.

Starting from 2013 Belarusian economy faced stagnation. The economy started to stabilize in the first half of 2017 and grew modestly since then. A tentative economic recovery in Russia helped to boost exports and support a moderate increase in domestic business activity, especially in industry. However, despite a tentative recovery, medium-term economic growth is expected to remain weak as structural bottlenecks persist and domestic demand remains subdued.

The factors that enabled Belarus’ past success are no longer in play. It is no longer possible to increase capital utilization rates, the Russian fuel subsidy is less valuable, and higher debt-service ratios make it difficult to finance consumption from foreign borrowing.

The pathway to sustainable growth includes restructuring state-owned enterprises and resolving related fiscal risks, addressing nonperforming loans, and better targeting social protection and unemployment assistance. Despite the growth of real wages and a nominal 6.5% increase in budget sector wages beginning in September 2017, the moderate poverty rate (PPP US$5/day) is projected to remain stable during 2017–2018.

Labor market conditions remain tight, as a still weak financial situation and accumulated debts will prevent enterprises from increasing employment.

Public Health

Contemporary Belarus is hit by the epidemic of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs). NCDs are responsible for 89% of all deaths in the country. The probability of dying prematurely between the age of 30 and 70 from NCDs in Belarus is 29%, with chances of premature death for men (38%) twice as high as they are for women (15%).

Six in ten Belarusians are overweight, salt consumption is at least two times higher than the WHO recommended daily intake and almost half of men use tobacco.

Belarus economy loses 5.4% of its national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) each year due to premature deaths, morbidity and disability caused by NCDs and the associated reduced workforce productivity which poses a threat to the sustainable socioeconomic development of the country.

Successes

The Belarusian economy has been functioning against a backdrop of external economic environment. However, macroeconomic stabilization has been achieved in Belarus due to stern measures in monetary, fiscal and budgetary policy.

In 2017, inflation has declined below the inflation target, the positive dynamics in the balance of payments has been achieved. Belarus runs a budget surplus.

Despite significant obligations in relation to foreign currency debt servicing, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus manages to increase international reserves.

In 2010—2016, the country's GDP went up 3.2 % in comparable prices, while the growth of labor productivity in that period was 10.2 %.

GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) increased from US$15 400 in 2010 to US$17 500 in 2016. In GDP (PPP) per capita, Belarus ranked 4th among the CIS countries, outpacing Armenia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

The Government has indicated its interest in expanding the private sector’s share of the economy, currently estimated to be less than 30%. It has invited the UN and the IFIs to provide support in this regard.  

Regional development and the expansion of SMEs in the regions is also a key priority for both the Government and key donors.

Tax, customs duty and other concessions are provided to small businesses in rural areas and small towns. For example, when using a speci c tax regime, small enterprises may pay only one tax (amounting to 3—5 % of the revenue), and maintain records according to the simpli ed procedure.

In 2017 Belarus president set an ambitious goal to transform Belarus into an IT country. He signed a large-scale fundamental digital economy development ordinance. The document is mainly designed to create the conditions for international IT companies to tap into Belarus, open branch offices and R&D centers in the country, and make products which are highly sought after in the world.

Belarus  achieved remarkable results in the IT industry. More than one billion people in 193 countries use mobile applications of Belarus’ Hi-Tech park resident companies. Over 90% of software developed in the Hi-Tech Park is exported to Russia, the CIS, Western Europe, and the USA.

In 2017 Belarus president  signed Decree No. 8 “On the introduction of the visa-free entry and departure for foreign citizens” on 9 January 2017. The document launched a five-day visa-free policy at the Minsk National Airport for citizens of 80 countries. Starting from 28 July 2018 Belarus extended visa-free stay for foreigners up to 30 days.

Belarus will remain a committed member of the UN Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking. Belarus will continue its efforts to elaborate and agree with other states on the promotion of traditional family values as the basis of work on gender. As a country seriously affected by the Chernobyl Disaster, Belarus has pledged to play a leading role for the elaboration of a new framework for international assistance to tackle the Chernobyl legacy post-2016.  

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Belarus 
Go to UNDP Global