Belarus Mulls Privatization Programs


MINSK -- Belarus' government will overcome difficulties linked to steep increases in the price of Russian gas and oil by proceeding with a cautious program of privatization, a top government official said.

Vladimir Semashko, first deputy prime minister, said the increases Belarus accepted after a dispute last month that briefly halted the flow of Russian oil across its territory to Europe dealt an economic blow that was difficult to absorb.

"The immediate imposition of price rises amounts to a serious test for the Belarussian economy. ... We believe we are in for a difficult year," Semashko said late Tuesday.

The government had earlier said it wanted to reorient its economic and trade policies, switching its previous heavy emphasis on traditional partner Russia, to attract Western investors.

"Government data for January show that on the whole, the economy has coped well with the shock of the gas price increase," Semashko said.

Semashko also said the government was considering an orderly privatization of enterprises in specific sectors, including the chemical industry.

"We will never go ahead with a rash privatization as was done in Russia. We are preparing measures that will include the possibility of controlling shares for companies with serious financial resources for modernization." he said.

"We will be pleased to discuss with such companies the possibility of acquiring shares in our industry."