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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Bank Blasts Belarus, Decries Reverses on Reform

MINSK -- The World Bank sharply criticized Belarus for its failure to carry out market reforms and said the country was drifting back toward Soviet-style central planning.

"The administration is forever thinking and talking, but they are accomplishing little," World Bank representative Christopher Willoughby told local television.

"Since October 1995 they have been moving back toward a centrally planned system," he said.

The World Bank halted funding this year to the former Soviet republic after disbursing $115 million out of $170 million in approved credits. Belarus has joined Turkmenistan and Tadjikistan as the former Soviet countries receiving the least amount of money from the World Bank, Willoughby said.

He said there was a lack of political will toward economic reform in Belarus.

"The government makes promises regarding privatization, but nothing happens," Willoughby said.

According to government statistics, no state enterprises have been privatized so far this year. Only 10 percent have been privatized in the past four years.

In the past few months, Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has nationalized the currency exchange and placed strict controls on banks and businesses.

Willoughby said the World Bank would like to fund more programs, but the Belarussian government has made no attempt to meet loan conditions.

"Ours and similar international funding bodies can leave in order to return here in three, four or five years to open new dialogues," Willoughby said.

Lukashenko said on television Sunday night that he would promote economic reforms only if the nation does not support him during a referendum called for Nov. 7 to change the constitution.

"If the nation does not support me, I will do what other countries are doing, which is to try and reform everything at once," Lukashenko said.