Whisper it, but the business environment in Belarus is blossoming, thanks in part to some business-friendly reforms, the most recent of which is cutting red tape for companies. Despite recent protests against high unemployment rate and low living standards – or perhaps because of them – private companies are gently being encouraged to establish themselves.
“Every year, Belarus becomes a more comfortable place to do business,” Oleg Khusaenov, CEO at ZubrCapital tells Emerging Europe. “I always tell people that a unique environment has been created in Belarus. The High Tech Park was founded 10 years ago: it gave unique opportunities for the development of technology. Today every schoolchild wants to work in the IT industry and do business,” he comments.
According to the World Bank Doing Business Report, Belarus ranked 38th in 2017, six notches up from in 2016, thanks to its cheap but educated workforce and less competition and corruption than in some neighbouring countries.
“There are two important factors for a small country: high level of education and success stories which give new ideas for new generations, showing that it is possible to achieve success by brains,” Mr Khusaenov adds.
When it comes to education, quality is very high, especially in science and engineering. “We all understand that modern technology trends are possible thanks to people with strong engineering backgrounds. In this regard, investments in the brains of Belarus are successful and prosperous,” he continues.
The parliament of Belarus recently passed a draft law cutting red tape for businesses by reducing the number of fines that can be imposed on firms for violations, and removing most grounds for property confiscation. But the Soviet Union’s ghost is still lurks.
“What can improve the image of Belarus? Success stories. There should be big, groundbreaking projects, which will develop the brand of the country systematically. For example, Estonia positions itself as the ‘electronic state.’ It is this kind of thing which can develop a Brand Belarus abroad, and help us become a centre of modernity,” Mr Khusaenov concludes.