Belarus to liberalise most retail prices - EconMin

MINSK, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Belarus will abandon retail price regulation from Oct. 28, with the exception of 50 so-called socially important products, the Economy Ministry said on Wednesday.

The government will continue to control the price of many staple foodstuffs, such as low-fat milk, basic meat items, salt and sugar, the ministry said in a statement published in the government's Respublika newspaper.

The government will also retain control over tariffs on goods and services, it said.

The Belarussian government sets price ceilings for products, limits the profitability of processing firms and imposes compulsory mark-ups for wholesalers and producers.

Wednesday's decision follows the government's earlier statements that it would give up control over prices in a gradual manner.

The International Monetary Fund, which has granted Belarus a $3.5 billion standby loan, and other international organisations have long been advocating price liberalisation as a necessary step to make Belarus a market-oriented economy.

The Belarussian government had refused the notion in the past, claiming that price control allows affordable products for the people and makes exports competitive. It had also warned that leaving prices to market forces would spur inflation.

Consumer prices rose by 0.3 percent in September, and official forecasts see inflation at 9-11 percent this year.

(Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky in Minsk and Lidia Kelly in Moscow, editing by Mike Peacock)



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