Belarus’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 2.4 percent in 2017. GDP per capita amounted to USD 18 900 in 2017. Of European countries, only Moldova and five countries in the Balkans (Montenegro, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Kosovo) which had a lower GDP per capita.
The Belarusian economy is largely state-controlled and based on close cooperation with Russia. Economic developments since 1991 have been turbulent and alternated between periods of severe currency crises and economic progress. The periodic progress has been particularly linked to the status of transit country for oil and gas from Russia to Central and Western Europe. The private sector is small and foreign investment has been minimal.
In the first part of the 1990s, almost all economic sectors had a decline, and the annual rate of inflation was very high. Belarus had access to affordable oil, gas and raw materials from other Soviet republics during the Soviet era. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, prices for these goods rose. This posed major financial problems for business and many companies had to close down. The economy was also hit by a significant decline in demand for military equipment, which had traditionally been an important sector. From the mid-1990s, limited economic reforms were implemented, as an attempt to improve the situation.
The private sector is still small and foreign investment has been minimal. Belarus has close economic cooperation with Russia.
Agriculture contributes 8.1 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 9.7 percent of the working population (2017).
For several years after independence in 1991, state and collective farming dominated the ownership of Belarusian agriculture. However, private landowners account for most of the country’s production of potatoes, fruits and vegetables. About 35 percent of the total land area is land, 20 per cent meadow and pasture and 35 percent forest.
The soil is not very fertile, but the considerable areas of wetlands that have been dried up have provided rich crops. In the north, agriculture focuses particularly on beef and cattle farming, in the middle of potato and pig farming, in the south on hemp and cattle farming. In addition, rye, wheat, sugar beet, vegetables and rubber plant are cooks.
Animal husbandry accounts for more than half of the country’s total agricultural production. Large areas of Belarus remain unused after the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986. It is estimated that about 70 percent of the radioactive fallout from Chernobyl hit Belarusian territory.
Forestry is an important industry, with spruce and pine as the most important tree species. Most of the forest is state or collective.
Belarus has relatively few mineral resources, but there are smaller deposits of iron ore, potassium carbonate, rock salt and phosphorus, among others. There is also some oil and natural gas, but most of the country’s energy needs are covered by natural gas, which is mostly imported from Russia.
Oil and gas imports make up almost half of the country’s total import costs. The country’s two significant oil refineries are located in Navapolatsk and Mazyr. Annual production accounts for approximately 7–8 percent of the country’s annual demand.
The country has large deposits of peat that are used for energy purposes.
99.2 percent of the country’s consumption of electricity comes from non-renewable energy sources.
The industry contributes 40.8 percent of the country’s GDP and employs 23.4 percent of the working population (2017). In 2017, industrial production increased by 5.7 per cent.
As a Soviet Republic, Belarus was largely dependent on other Union republics for access to raw materials and fossil fuels. This has led to restructuring problems for the industry after independence. Among other things, industrial sector spending has risen sharply as Belarus has to import fossil fuel at world market prices.
Half of the industry employees work in heavy engineering. In addition to the workshop industry, the textile and clothing industry is the most important industrial sector. The wood processing and chemical industries are also relatively large industries. In addition to petroleum products, the chemical industry also produces fertilizers and chemicals. The industry is largely concentrated in large units and located in larger cities.
The country’s most important export goods are machinery and transport equipment, chemical products and food products. Belarus imports large quantities of oil and gas, more than ⅓ of the total import value. According to Countryaah, other important import goods are chemical products, machinery and metal products.
In 2017, total exports amounted to USD 28.65 billion. Imports were $ 31.58 billion. Belarus had with a deficit of the trade balance of nearly three billion US dollars.
In 2017, Belarus had three main export markets as follows: Russia 57.2 percent, Ukraine 11.5 percent and the United Kingdom 8.2 percent. The three main markets for the country’s imports were: Russia 57.2 percent, China 8.0 percent and Germany 5.1 percent.
Transport and Communications
Belarus has a relatively well-developed infrastructure. In total, there are 102,000 kilometers of road, of which 86.5 percent are paved. Roads are the most important communication network in the country.
The total length of the railway network is 5528 kilometers. The capital of Minsk is the most important railway junction on the east-west rail link between Warsaw and Moscow and on the north-south link between Ukraine and the Baltic States.
Minsk has a subway as well as two airports, one for domestic traffic and one for international traffic.
The larger rivers are navigable and several channels link the Dnieper and Dvina waterways.