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Belarus: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Belarus

For business meetings, visitors should dress smartly. English is widely used in management circles though hiring an interpreter may be helpful. Appointments should be made well in advance and confirmed nearer the time. Business cards should have a Russian translation on the back. Personal relationships are important and being mindful that processes may take a long time is also advisable.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0900-1800.

Economy

Belarus' economy has improved in recent years and the government is working hard to attract foreign investments and keep unemployment low.

The main agriculture crops are grains and potatoes; livestock breeding is also substantial. The manufacturing industry is focused on the production of agricultural machinery, vehicles and chemicals, most of which have been exported in the past. Apart from a few oil and gas deposits, Belarus has no energy reserves and relies on imports, most of which come from Russia at subsidised prices.

From 2012 to 2016, the economy in Belarus was hurt by falling global prices on key export commodities, which prompted the government to make changes to its macro-economic policies and take steps to reduce subsidised government lending to state-owned enterprises. Consequently, Belarus posted a 2.4% GDP growth in 2017.

The economic situation is has gradually improved and in 2018, Belarus issued $600 million worth of Eurobonds to further boost its economy.

GDP

US$54.4 billion (2017)

Main exports

Machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals and textiles.

Main imports

Energy, mineral products, metals and foodstuffs.

Main trading partners

Russia, Ukraine, China, UK, Germany.

Keeping in Touch in Belarus

Telephone

To make international calls it is necessary to dial 810, the Belarusian international prefix. Dial 8, wait for a tone, then dial 10. Public telephones take cards. Grey booths are for internal calls and blue ones for international calls. Prepaid phone cards are available.

Mobile Phone

Belarusian mobile phone networks have grown more extensive in their coverage, and are no longer limited to the major cities. There are several international roaming agreements in place; however it's often much cheaper to make calls by either hiring a local handset or using a local sim inside an unlocked mobile phone. Mobile providers in Belarus include MTS, Velcom or Life Belarus.

Internet

There are a few internet cafes in the major cities, but you're more likely to be able to access the internet from your hotel's Wi-Fi. Broadband is growing increasingly common but be prepared for slow connection speeds (ranging between 1.86 to 2.66 Mbps). Access is also available at some post offices.

Media

The Belarusian authorities have been heavily criticised by human rights and media organisations for suppressing freedom of speech, muzzling the independent press and denying the opposition access to state owned media. The president's administration controls decisions on content and the appointment of senior editors of state media, meaning the government effectively has a monopoly over the majority of the country’s social, political and economic information distribution.

Government-controlled newspapers enjoy considerable state subsidies and financial privileges, while many of the opposition print media have faced increased charges, or are forced to close down, change name or publish abroad.

Thankfully, some leading privately-owned newspapers survive thanks to popular demand. The English-language paper Belarus Today is published weekly while the principal dailies are Narodnaya Hazeta and Respublika, all printed in Belarusian and Russian. Sovetskaya Beloroussiya is a Russian language state-sponsored newspaper. The Belarusian National State Teleradio Company operates domestic radio and TV channels and an external radio service. Some radio stations target Belarusian listeners from outside the country.

Post

Airmail to Western Europe takes a minimum of 10 days. The Central Post Office (Minsk, near the railway station) and the Yubileynaya and Planeta hotels in Minsk offer express mail services. DHL Worldwide Express and Federal Express also have branches in Minsk.

Post Office hours

0800-2000 (central office in Minsk).