Sell Belarus. Or Else.

Forget diplomatic niceties. No more speeches on multilateral political treaties, or long-winded explanations of Belarus's unique brand of democracy.

Instead: Sell Belarus -- its tractors, fertilizers, textiles -- and its opportunities.

That's the message Belarusian ambassadors received at their annual meeting in Minsk on March 4 from Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski. And, apparently, that's how success or failure of the diplomatic missions in 47 countries will be evaluated.

Official statistics shows continuing industrial growth in Belarus -- that may be even true. Unemployment, according to the same statistics, is a meager 1 percent.

But there is a little problem -- storage space. While exports are declining sharply (a one-third fall in January), state-owned factories (most factories in Belarus are state owned) are busy, sometimes reprocessing ready-made products into raw materials and making new ones again.

The government ordered that they be sold at a loss, but that didn't help much. The combination of price and quality just wasn't tempting enough. Even Russia cut its imports from Belarus by 44 percent in January.

And that's where the ambassadors, attaches, and other diplomatic staff come in: sell, sell, sell. If they fail to sell, they may be recalled. To build new storage houses, perhaps.

Alexander Lukashuk



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