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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IMF: Minsk Fudges GDP Figures

MTPresident Alexander Lukashenko
MINSK, Belarus -- The International Monetary Fund said Friday that Belarus' hopes for fast economic growth next year were unrealistic and that the ex-Soviet state's statistics overstated the health of the economy.

Mark Horton, the IMF's resident representative in Lithuania and Belarus, told a news conference that gross domestic product, the broadest measure of a country's economic health, would grow between 1.5 percent and 2 percent in 2002.

By contrast, the government expects GDP to grow by 6 percent after a forecasted 6 percent rise in 2001.

"Given the weaknesses of the domestic economy, slowdown in Russia and the general economic outlook in the world, we think 1.5 percent to 2 percent would be more realistic," Horton said.

He also said the statistical methods used by officials in Minsk exaggerated GDP growth by about 1.5 percentage points.

Government figures showed GDP rose by 3 percent in the first nine months of the year compared with 5 percent growth in the same period of 2000.

IMF experts also said the global lender and the government had failed to agree on a program to reform the centralized, Soviet-style economy due to Minsk's inability to stick to its budget targets.

Marta de Castello-Branco, an expert at the IMF's European II department, said President Alexander Lukashenko's pledge to raise average monthly wages to $100 and its implementation had caused problems with the budget.

But she praised the liberalization of the country's currency market and moves aimed at curbing inflation.

Belarus is trying to convince the IMF to resume its aid to the country of 10 million people. The fund froze its lending to Minsk in 1996 and recalled its resident representative in 1998 in protest of the slow pace of reforms.

The government had hoped to receive a stand-by loan next year, but de Castello-Branco said that any talks on a future loan would be possible only after both sides had agreed on a six-month program to lay foundations for cooperation.

Lukashenko promised last month to implement some limited economic reforms and ease controls over the economy, but the IMF's experts said they wanted to see the results.

"It was important to us that the president explicitly confirms the intentions for economic liberalization which he had voiced earlier," said Horton.

However, the authorities canceled a meeting between Lukashenko and John Odling-Smee, director of the European II department and the IMF's head of the mission to Minsk.