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Belarus’s Soviet Economy (bloomberg.com)
172 points by JumpCrisscross 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 227 comments

I had my second trip to Minsk last week to work with a local IT company.

I was very impressed with the technical skills of the people there. Belarus and Minsk are advanced in many ways (metro with trains every 2 minutes), electric busses (powered by capacitors, not batteries), mobile phone (MTS shop at the airport sells a $9 SIM with unlimited data for a month), Yandex taxis beats Uber, etc, etc.

The main downside I noticed was meals based on meat and potatoes, not many vegetables.

All in all, I now am curious to find out more about Belarus... Need to spend some time learning basic Russian now!

Minsk is a great city indeed. IT is pretty strong, many startups evolved recently (Wannaby, OneSoil, MSQRD (aq. by Facebook), Fabby (aq. by Google), PandaDoc)

Sorry for the meals - Belarusians love their potatoes. There are some 300+ dishes recorded in Belarus - that it came to be considered the core of the national cuisine.

P.S. Not quite related to the meals, but Belarus bans use of plastic plates in restaurants recently.


They don't just have startups EPAM, Wargaming are multi-billion companies

> Belarusians love their potatoes

I am a bit fascinated as to how this came to be from Ireland to Russia, given that the potato is native to the Americas, and thus was unknown in Europe before around 1500 CE.

"Traditional cuisine" is often more recent than we think. Tomatoes aren't native to Italy. Chilli peppers aren't native to India or Thailand.

In the other direction: flour tortillas in northern Mexico (someone from Mexico City will probably come and tell me burritos aren't really Mexican food; but they are, in places like Sonora).

Or beef in Brazil and Argentina. Or Dulce de Leche.

Of course, both of those came over from the Americas, like the potato.

As far as I know, Europeans used to eat turnips and rutabaga, but in 1700s the potato mostly replaced them due to being cheaper and easier to grow.

I don't want to sound like a Negative Nelly but you all in this thread are swooning over a dictatorship with pretty awful human rights abuses.

I find it valuable to learn things that go against my preconceptions about what life in Belarus is like. It's surprising to learn that it has a tech scene and capacitor-charged busses. We could also focus on their poverty and repression, but would any of that be surprising to you?

You make the very common mistake of assuming a country with a dictator and human rights abuses is automatically a horrible place to be.

Earlier this year I was in Sudan for a few weeks. Hands down the friendliest and kindest people I've ever met on earth. Much, much friendlier than Australians or Canadians.

Open your mind, accept there are other ways to do things, and we can learn to improve our way of doing things. It's not to say these countries are perfect, just better in different ways.

PS I'm Australian/Canadian.

>Hands down the friendliest and kindest people I've ever met on earth

Anecdotally, Iranian people fall into the same category despite living under a despotic regime and severe sanctions imposed by the US.

I agree. I've never met a single person that has travelled to Iran that doesn't list it as their all-time favourite country, and number 1 they want to return to. I've met at least a few hundred people that have driven across, spending 2-4 weeks.

(Note: I've never been)

Were any of them women, or gay?

People working in gov sector risk their jobs for expressing political views. IT and other private sector workers are much more liberal. Supporting private companies helps democracy

How awful exactly is that dictatorship?

And besides, the swooning is about Belorussian people, not Lukashenko

Indeed! I worked very closely with a team of contracted software engineers from Minsk for 5 years and I learned a lot from them. It's anecdotal of course, but the Belarusian team members I managed had amazing work ethic and positivity as well. The level of skill in English was also impressive. I was told there is a "tech district" in downtown Minsk with a budding tech scene.

The company they worked for had an open invitation for me to visit Minsk, and apparently it is very easy to visit on a US passport for a short period, someday I'll go and check it out.

Yep, have hired designers from there. Quality of work is first-rate, English is always excellent, and they have (perhaps somewhat contrary to the article) a good understanding of business and what the goal of a client might be. Stark contrast with the work I get locally in the UK.

Would definitely love to visit Minsk too. Seems like a very nice place (if you can look past the govt).

You make it sound glamorous but as Lithuanian I found Minsk to be rather sad. I mean painting over manhole covers, destroyed architecture, national library that looks like giant bacteriophage that has robots inside but you still have to let babushka sign off a book, the town that looks like it has population of 100k, not 2M. It felt like a dead city with boring food and basically nothing to do. I agree the engineers are great tho.

In Belarus, I felt the weight of history more than pretty much any other country I have visited.

To put things in perspective, Minsk is geographically midway between Berlin and Moscow. In World War 2, the whole country was basically the front line between Germany and Russian. Most houses and infrastructure were destroyed and and 2.3m people -- a quarter of the population -- lost their lives. The equivalent in the US today is 75 million people!

I find it amazing that the country has recovered so well.

Aside from downtown Vilnius, Lithiania looks worse than Belarus. At least as far as appearences go.

Fair, I haven’t been to country in Belarus.

The city was wiped off the surface of the earth during the World War II, it suffered much worse than Warsaw or Dresden. And you wouldn't expect the Soviets to rebuild it in anything other than social realism, so that's what Minsk is today. Though there are two or three streets of pre-War architecture left.

Do you know any Lithuanian that thinks positively about Belarus?

Maybe some old pro-soviet folks (there are quite few). For others the mere ideas Russia now being next door is disgusting.

Keep in mind that IT domain is somewhat separated from the rest of all other economics of Belarus. Pay rates in IT-related companies a much higher than in in almost any other domain. On the other side, most of heavy industry, education and medical service are in decline.

Frequency of metro trains is reduced if compared to what there was had few years ago. 2 minute intervals are only on rush hours. Most of other time it's ~7-10m intervals.

Electric buses are used only on single route in the center of the Minsk.

Yandex and Uber in Minsk are joined into single company. So you can't say that Yandex beat Uber :)

> $9 SIM with unlimited data for a month

I suspect that this is not true. AFAIK, there are no real "unlimited" plans. There always a cap on total volume of data.

Yandex taxis are only popular because they bought and extinguished Uber in Belarus. They're much worse in terms of quality of the service, people only use them because there isn't much choice.

Actually, they merged.

"On 13 July 2017, Yandex.Taxi and Uber signed an agreement to merge their businesses and operations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Russia. ... Yandex invested $100 million and Uber invested $225 million in the new structure."

The mobile application from Yandex.Taxi is in my opinion the best taxi app in existence, much better than Uber. And it's not like the quality of the service can differ between apps all that much, the pool of taxi drivers is the same after all…

> The main downside I noticed was meals based on meat and potatoes, not many vegetables.

Do you realize where belarus is? It gets cold in belarus. Meat and potatoes are food that can be grown locally. Also, it is environmentally devastating to transport all the vegetables all over the world like we currently do. Look at how much globalism has damaged the environment, not to mention the problems with climate change.

More people should be eating their local "meat and potatoes" rather than a globalized diet.

there's a ton of vegetables that grow in old climates. Basically all brassicae grow fine (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, chard etc), and if you want to stick to roots you have carrots, beetroots, turnip, parsnip, radishes, chervil, onion, rutabaga, jerusalem artichokes etc. And beans preserve well.

I would bet the persistence of meat and potatoes is due to the higher amount of calories they provide, which historically made more sense as the productive capacity of the country was lower, and while it'd probably be ok to eat greenhouse tomatoes now, it just takes time to change habits.

I'm not sure why this comment is being downvoted. I live in Kazakhstan, and while it's not exactly the same as Belarus, we're living in very similar conditions. In winter time, fruits and vegetables are very expensive here. Most of the cheaper ones (the only kind available to most people, myself included) look and taste like they're made of plastic, and are packed with nitrites. I tend to avoid them altogether, you don't get to have a very healthy diet with this kind of food.

> In winter time, fruits and vegetables are very expensive here. Most of the cheaper ones (the only kind available to most people, myself included) look and taste like they're made of plastic, and are packed with nitrites.

It's not much different in the "West". We already plant crops for yield, and in winter, we eat crops grown for yield and shipability. Out-of-season crops will cost substantially more than what cost in-season.

Though storage tech is improving: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/11/26/668256349/th...

And thank god for bananas.

The majority of apples sold in Belarus are produced in the Netherlands. Storage technology matters.

Does "globalism" really play a role here? There are self-proclaimed nationalist parties today and in history that also caused great environmental destruction. And to a certain extent, shipping freight from say China to west-coast USA is equally as polluting as shipping from west-coast USA to east-coast USA.

Consumption causes externalities, yes, but I believe a global trade economy is overall more efficient than nationalist segmented economies, thus the overall pollution load should theoretically be lower with globalism.

unfortunately other westernized east european mainstream diet moves usually to burger, fried potatoes and pizza and corn.

I'll add to that, people in that region eat plenty of vegetables and fruit... during summer and autumn. But fast/street food is mostly meat, potatoes, cheese, anything that can be sold all year round.

That reminds me of British mushy peas, even served at expensive restaurants, which no one outside the UK seems to like heh

I am positive that vegetables from across the world have much less environmental impact that even locally sourced beef.


The main downside I noticed was meals based on meat and potatoes, not many vegetables.

The main downsides I noticed were the fact that it would have been completely unthinkable to walk the streets during a major public event and, say, hand out fliers openly criticizing Batka's leadership.† Which probably explained why no one was doing so, at this certain major public event I attended. That and of course the near-total suppression of LGBT culture.

The food offerings as such are quite good and reasonably diverse, if one knows where to look (there's a pretty decent nightlife district downtown, for example). And the people are quite friendly and grounded (somehow more approachable than in many Western cities I've been to).

But still - it's a very different country in certain ways.

† As the President is affectionately referred to by.

>>The main downside I noticed was meals based on meat and potatoes, not many vegetables.

Pretty sure you can find veggies too, but the price might not appeal to you. As others said, their climate is cold and importing veggies cost a lot, especially relative to wages there.

Next time you're in Minsk, go to chaikhana. It's the only nice place to eat IMO.

Chaikhana Lounge Cafe

vulica Surhanava 61, Minsk, Belarus +375 29 325-45-45 https://g.co/kgs/Y6YE4E

I was there last year, World of Tanks seems to be a huge thing there too

Belarusians are very proud of World of Tanks!

My Belavia flight back yesterday morning was a World of Tanks themed plane:

- exterior paint and headrests promoted World of Tanks.

- each tabletop had a blueprint of a different tank

- even the pre-takeoff safety briefing was recorded in a World of Tanks style!

See photos here: https://airlinerwatch.com/belavia-and-wargaming-reveal-secon...

Impressive and ridiculously tacky at the same time.

It's like flying inside of an ad that gets glued to your eyeballs for the duration of a flight. It's appropriate for ferrying gamers to a WoT event somewhere, but for regular flights this is completely unacceptable.

As a treadhead (but one who doesn't play WoT): that's awesome! Especially the tank blueprints. WoT also funds videos on some of my favorite military history YT channels.

A strong IT industry is probably a common thing among all Eastern Europe capitals due to the abundance of engineers from the communist past and the outsourcing to these countries that follow the fall of the Berlin wall. Minsk shouldn't be an exception.

>no vegetables

Oh no! What would we do without our rabbit food?

Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


I had the chance to visit Belarus last year for a extended period. The capital, Minsk, is by far the cleanest and safest place i have seen anywhere.

Putting aside the human right issues, i think the president there has run the country quite well given the circumstances and the post-soviet situation he inherited. Mostly staying out of conflicts, keeping a balance between the big brother to the east and the western European countries, growing the economy (with a big IT sector). But - unlike e.g. Ukraine - all without the usual post-soviet hard system change that displaces workers from the old soviet state companies and social structures they relied on.

/edit: Jesus, why the downvotes?

> Putting aside the human right issues...

I'm not sure that is a safe start to an argument that a country is well run. When human rights get suppressed that means people lose the ability to, eg, honestly complain about massive problems or take basic steps to improve their standard of living. Growing an economy at the expense of human rights is kinda stupid. What is the point of making people's lives materially better if the government is simultaneously suppressing their ability live better lives? Pointless and counterproductive busywork.

I can see how a country can be good and have human rights abuses at the same time - most great countries are involved in human rights abuses to some degree - but they can't just be hand-waved at the start. Being a nice place to visit as a wealthy tourist hand having clean streets is not a high bar.

You also inspired me to go and have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Belarus . I wasn't impressed to read that they have laws where a "change of job and living location will require permission from governors [for 9% of the workforce]". I would call that catastrophically poor management of the economy bordering on actual slavery. So either Wikipedia is misleading me or they are not quite well run.

I mean, I guess it's just hard to understand for people who have never lived under such a system. In Poland it's relatively common for people to say that life used to be "better" under communism, even though yes, what you could buy was limited, where you could travel was limited and sometimes yes, you would be assigned to a post somewhere and had to move there whether you wanted to or not(freshly graduated teachers would usually be assigned to a school in the country that needed teachers, with little personal choice). All of that sounds horrendous from the perspective of western countries today(or well, in fact, Poland in 2019 too), but not everything is just black and white - there were good things about it too. Excellent quality of education. Of healthcare. Public transport that was cheap or free to use, and regular. Massive investment in infrastructure. New things which were built were usually built with citizens in mind first, not profit.

Like, it's really hard to explain because you'd never see the benefit of that over personal freedom, but I get why older generations are nostalgic over it. I wouldn't go back to it but it wasn't all bad.

>> I wasn't impressed to read that they have laws where a "change of job and living location will require permission from governors [for 9% of the workforce]".

Do they have such laws or you believe that a proposed law (according to the cited articled) is an existing law already? You seem to quickly go and claim border-line slavery without checking it first.

Belarus is a dictatorship. If Lukashenko says “this should happen, I’m gonna make it happen”, I think it’s reasonable to interpret that as a proclamation of a new law unless there’s evidence it’s not being followed.

Because, as the article explains, what happened with IT was despite economic policy not because of it.

And I think a reasonable person would make the comparison with Ukraine: Belarus didn't keep a balance, they are effectively run by Russia (iirc, Lukashenko and most of his associates are under sanction by the EU and can't travel there). Compare that to Estonia or Latvia or Lithuania...the difference should be quite obvious.

Btw, just generally: Lukashenko is not a nice guy. He is one of the more anti-semitic political leaders out there (and the competition is stiff). The human rights stuff and election rigging is also unusually bad.

Didn't Lukashenka travel to Brussels recently? Or us going to, soon?

It seems you cannot voice a political opinion here outside the mainstream without being at risk for getting downvotes. Have upvote from Sacha.

You’ve been downvoted because in the west we’ve been conditioned by over a decades worth of negative media exposure so it’s difficult for people to have a rational response for anything positive said about the region.

This media blitz started in 2008 right about at the start of the Olympics.


China is investing in Belarus. They build factories and infrastructure, likely to get easier access to the European markets.

In the beginning of 1990s, Belarus had more potential than Poland and Baltic states to become a strong prosperous democracy - it was a centre of electronics in USSR, had very good universities with mathematics, physics, electronics, engineering. It had developed textile industry, built heavy carriers, tractors.

Sure, they needed innovations, market thinking, and transparent controlled privatization, but there were hope and enthusiasm in the beginning of 1990s.

My opinion, Russian influence killed it eventually - they helped Lukashenko to stay in power in 1996 and made the country dependent on Russian markets, oil, gas, money - and Lukashenko spent all the money on economically ineffective government projects, lost investors, kept inefficient model. The rigid, indecisive, and toothless politics of the EU toward Lukashenko did not help either. In a short perspective, it may look morally wrong to work and cooperate with “Last Dictatorship”, but politics is a long game of planting seeds and growing influence, small wins, and changing minds - such strategic thinking is unfortunately beyond and above our bureaucrats.

Now the country is basically lost and hopeless. Do not be under the spell of its software industry and some improvements in Minsk - it is a tiny part of the picture.

Young and active leave the country. More than half of people who studies CS, physics, or applied maths from my generation (30-35+) live in Europe, US, Australia. State medicine is poor - medical professionals just run away from the country. Construction workers, trade professionals leave for Russia, Poland, Baltic States. I learnt from my connections there that many bright young people learn German, English, Polish, or Czech to go study after school abroad and then stay there, no plan B to stay in Belarus. They see no future in country.

Recently, it got even worse: first, Belarusian military pushed for stricter draft rules, and, second, Russia has successfully pushed for further integration. It leads to even more migration of the young and educated, plus people living abroad drop their citizenship for a new one - few are excited to find themselves one day a subject of Russian Federation.

> State medicine is poor


Belarus Is Fast Becoming a Medical Tourism Mecca


I know many, well, Russian speaking folks who fly to Belarus for a medical tourism purposes. It's much cheaper, and quality is often better. Best bang for the buck!

Man, how you can call b/c? You read articles, I talk to my friends and relatives there, my mother is a doctor.

First, there is a number of private and state clinics and practices mostly in the capital, where they can afford good equipment, and they make money on medical tourists or locals with money. Most of medical industry is outside of this spot and in a much worse condition, the further you go to the province - lack of medical staff, tools, medicine, over-regulations.

Second, the salaries of doctors and medical assistants are ridiculous - an experienced doctor makes 400 USD a month, medical sisters and junior doctors even less. Sure, there are successful surgeons, good doctors in private centres, or stomatologists that make 1000 USD and more, but they are not representative for the general population.

> made the country dependent on Russian markets, oil, gas, money

What were their options when it came to oil and gas?

Develop other industries, rely less on money from oil refinement.

"made the country dependent on Russian markets, oil, gas, money"

How exactly did they do it? It's not like with different president Belarus wouldn't need all that.

You need to take responsibility for your country instead of blaming Russia and emigrating.

They sold oil and gas with discounts, pushed for economic union, gave preferences. Belarusian government did not do anything to help private businesses, attract investors, go to new markets and industries. To keep their power, they sold country.

About “taking responsibility” - people actually take responsibility for their future, family, children. That’s why they migrate. One can only take responsibility over what they can really change. Not everyone is born a hero to fight the system, very few heroes are successful, and we have only one life. It is safe to call for resistance from a cozy chair, but in fact, it is no romantic endeavor: people got tortured, imprisoned, disappear. Lives of common people can be sacrificed in revolutions for the ultimate benefit of new rulers.

So now discounts and preferences are a bad thing suddenly?

"Belarusian government did not do anything"

How is that Russia's fault?

"To keep their power, they sold country"

What exactly did Russia get? Belarus is still a sovereign country.

So you are saying that you would've stayed in Belarus if not for Russia?

Too many questions, my friend, shallow questions. And it seems like not for a good discussion, but for pushing your personal opinion, manipulations, or some agenda.

Please, do some research - on how a large country can make a small neighbour dependent on money injections, how they can ask to pay for credits with key state factories, keep hordes of agents and influencers in their governments, military, among politicians, on the history of Russian relations (btw, yesterday Finns remembered Winter War https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_War).

“So you are saying that you would’ve stayed in Belarus if not for Russia”

I never said that, bad try.

Or maybe it was too many unsubstantiated statements on your part?

The questions don't look shallow to me, they are specific, and your response is hand-waving and 'please do some research'. And here I thought you did that research yourself before blaming Russia.

I can see Russian trolls have infiltrated HN as well. They are abundant in my country's (Lithuania) news sites, but didn't really expect to find any here. Oh well, at least visitors of this site can see right through the utter nonsense you guys put out.

Says an account created 4 months ago to an account created in 2012.

HN is also probably not the place where calling a person a "Russian troll" constitutes a valid counter-argument.

>... had very good universities with mathematics, physics, electronics, engineering. It had developed textile industry, built heavy carriers, tractors.

Well, so was Ukraine, and look at it now.

It's always been a problem with communal equality focused systems that the highly qualified find they can make more going elsewhere.

Does anyone else find the pictures of tractor engines hypnotizing? It's a total antithesis of American or Chinese-for-American manufacturing, where everything is maximal or minimal. Instead everything is "reasonable", a reasonable cost, a reasonable engine efficiency, a design that makes simple sense, parts that aren't optimized to the micron in order to save plastic...it's so refreshing to look at the inside of a mass-market machine that doesn't look over-optimized.

My opinion: It's the Soviet engineering mentality, forged during WW2, and honed during the Cold War. From more than a few sources I've read, the Soviets basically optimized their country from top to bottom to fight and win a nuclear war, and that included manufacturing equipment that was considered highly durable, and easy to repair in harsh weather conditions (up to and including post-nuclear ones).

But hardware that is over-optimized for the worst-case scenario ended up highly inefficient during normal peacetime operations, hence their economy was hugely underperforming. I suspect the Soviet economy would have proven surprisingly robust in another total war .....fortunately we didn't find out.

Yes, it seems to me that they really thought they would fight that war.

At the tractor-engineering level, isn't it partly that they didn't iterate many times? What Ford was making in the 50s was not so different. But they junked the whole factory several times since then, or rather were forced to do so by competitors... it's easy to see how hard it would be to persuade even a well-meaning bureaucrat that you want to close down and replace a factory whose tractors worked just fine last year.

I have read (but am not completely sure) that every factory had a second purpose ready to go, e.g. your tractor factory had the tank blueprints ready, and made sure their machines could work for both. If true this must have been another enormous incentive not to change... if your plan for switching to lighter more fuel-efficient tractors means you can't make all the tank components you were supposed to, then you aren't going to get permission.

Nothing refreshing about it. Soviet technology being stuck in a state of “reasonable” was why, before the fall of the Soviet Union, America was several times more energy efficient per unit of production.

I would think tractors are pretty optimized — to be stout — and naturally aren't going to look like an automobile being manufactured.

Meanwhile in Corporatist America you are not allowed to fix your own tractor due to software copyright laws...

It is remarkable what can be accomplished when another much larger state is heavily subsidizing your entire economy. Good on the Belarusians for the progress they’ve achieved, but let’s not pretend it’s attributable to communism.

The former soviet states are a great natural experiment in economics. Countries that liberalized their economies, like Estonia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, and Latvia (the "mostly free" countries here: https://www.heritage.org/index/ranking) have grown much faster than countries that retained socialism and central planning, like Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. See: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/aug/17/ussr-s.... Remarkably, much of the economic growth came before Estonia, Lithuania, (Czechkia and Slovakia), and Latvia joined the EU. Indeed, their democratic and economic reforms, along with corresponding growth, paved the way for EU membership.

I would argue that in the case of Ukraine and Moldova, the main reason for their bad economy today is the large scale corruption that took place during post-soviet privatization in the 90s. This has lead to the extreme Oligarch power structure that we see today.

And relying on trade with Russia which has shunned them after their pro EU escapades.

Actually, the Ukraine shunned Russia by taking EU deal incompatible with free trade agreement with Russia.

Only Belarus from your list didn't "liberalize" its economy and retained central planning.

Also Belarus is benefiting mostly from 1) refining Russian oil, which they buy at lower prices, 2) gambling (which is illegal in Russia, so Russians go to Belarus) and 3) reselling European food to Russia to bypass Russian anti-sanctions.

Their economy is quite shitty and simply parasitizing on Russia.

Gambling is legal in Russia in specific gaming zones.

>Gambling is legal in Russia in specific gaming zones.

Which are virtually non-existent.


Non-existent gambling doesn't make it illegal.

> Non-existent gambling doesn't make it illegal.

It's illegal outside special zones which are virtually non-existent. Yes, it's virtually illegal.

Special zones are inside of Russia. So in fact gambling in Russia is not illegal, it is limited to special zones.


1) Do your homework. They do you exist, my flower. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gambling_in_Russia 2) Absense of something doesn't make it illegal.

Looks you have failed logic state here.

We've banned the GP account, but please don't take HN threads further into flamewar. The site guidelines ask you not to reply to egregious comments but rather to flag them.


You cannot use this as an example of a natural experiment. Natural experiment features external variation. In contrast, the amount of liberalization of the economy likely had a lot to do with the country's history, e.g. Ukraine's markets had been less developed than Estonia's before Soviet Union and as a result they couldn't afford to liberalize as much.

Ukraine liberalized its economy and it pretty much destroyed the place.

The whole GDP growth fetish is a lot of horse shit; some measure needs to be taken that the increase in GDP doesn't destroy the lives of some large swathe of the population like it did in Russia. Belarus may be led by a repressive dictator, but the fact that it didn't experience the absurd declines in life expectancy and quality of life in the 90s that Russia did will keep him popular, even if they do have to pay more for oil.

Ukraine is listed as “mostly unfree” in the listing above, so no.

Ok so let’s look at the countries highest on the Economic Freedom index.

Hong Kong tops the list right? It has what you would expect...

Capital has flowed in and normally that would have pushed blue collar workers and children and elderly out, with people commuting 2 hours each way as in SF. But since these are islands, the poor live in coffin like shoebox apartments, far smaller than anything allowed in US cities. Millions form entire communities of poverty around there, raise children there etc.

How large an effect are we talking? 20% of Hong Kong is below the poverty line. I did the math and any four people below the poverty line cannot together afford a studio apartment in normal areas of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has had to aggressively increase its welfare and safety nets. It has over 40 public hospitals and 20 private ones.

Suffice it to say that around the world, government-run and single-payer healthcare and schooling has been compatible with high scores on economic freedom. It’s only in the USA do we have this ridiculous fearmongering about that.

Hong Kong has, in many measures, a very strong safety net and strong public sector. Ditto for Singapore etc. And larger countries in Scandinavia, and Canada and Australia etc. are similar.

Much of the centrally coordinated infrastructure investment has paid off - in the US we had the interstate highway system, China lifted more people out of poverty in 20 years through centrally planned “ghost cities” than any place on Earth ever, and the USSR did a great job of increasing literacy, electricity, bringing universities, rights to women and minorities, to countries like Uzbekistan and that whole region. Child mortality declined greatly, as people got better access to healthcare.

Not to say that everything is black and white, but “economic freedom” and capitalism isn’t the only way science and technology and prosperity moves forward.

China hasn't fixed poverty though. A lot of migrant workers are left out in pensions, getting as low as 80$ per month.

Moving to those ghost cities have wrecked an entire generation, as it seems.

Moving people out of poverty includes the pension challenge. Which is the hardest one and I'm pretty sure that the one-child policy didn't contribute well to that part.

No doubt about it, getting off the addiction to the pyramid for social security will require a lot of automation (Japan is dealing with this now). But it’s the only sustainable way forward.

Look, China may not have eradicated poverty but certainly it was able to make the average wages go up 5x a decade for 20 years. Could this be done by uncoordinated market activity of private actors? Perhaps, but the USA has never been able to pull it off so fast.

Now one can argue the US always had a far higher starting point so it ran into diminishing returns. And that is a fair argument.

But keep in mind USSR’s GDP grew faster than USA and they faced the aftermath of two world wars, lost 30 million people and also subsidized lots of other countries in the Warsaw Pact (their version of the Marshall Plan). Compare apples to apples, eg the GDP of Romania after it joined the Eastern Bloc vs Hawaii after it was annexed as the 50th state of the US. Or compare GDP growth of Georgia and Puerto Rico.

It’s not actually clear which system led to more economic prosperity, and as I said the USA had the advantage of oceans protecting it, the dollar was the reserve currency all around the world after Bretton Woods, and we could import cheap goods all year long by just printing dollars. That has a massive effect on prosperity.

China's growth was the result of uncoordinated market activity of private actors. They switched systems.

I don't think Romania and Hawaii form an apples-to-apples comparison.

Romania: a country in Europe, occupied by the Soviets after World War II, with 16 million people. Neighbors Hungary, Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and the Black Sea.

Hawaii: a U.S. territory for half a century, with 620 thousand people. Noted for its proximity to Johnston atoll (825 miles from Honolulu), Midway Island (1311 miles), and San Francisco (2393 miles).

What would you say is an Apples-to-Apples comparison?

And with China, I don’t think it is at all accurate to say that the millions of miles of new roads, bridges, infrastructure, ghost cities etc. were built because private market actors woke up one day and decided to make massive infra investments. It was central planning. And a lot of the science, electric vehicles etc. is sponsored by govt too, that is why China is the world leader.

If you're talking about roads and bridges, that's all we need to hear. You're constructing a strawman.

All the infrastructure including entire cities. Why is it a strawman

China's ghost cities were privately developed.

Edit: A better example for you would be Singapore, with its history of public housing, which gets privately owned (or 99-year-leased). They also have public roads.

Can you please back up your assertion with sources? Here is the opposite of what you said:

Developers acquire new plots of land from local governments and are mandated to construct something more or less immediately.[10] Developers can't sit idly on vacant land and wait for the surrounding area to develop until it's economically viable.[10] This creates the quick-buck mentality in developers to rapidly build in the new area without the necessary demand for housing.[10]

"The cities are product of plan-driven economy that many cities are not expected to be complete or vibrant after 15 years of construction." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under-occupied_developments_in...

You literally backed it up for me.

I backed up pretty much the opposite of what you said. Massive government involvement setting the rules and mandates for developers who take the project.

I don't care what those jackasses say: the only thing they haven't sold off at this point is agricultural land, and the lizard men in the State Department are trying their hardest to loot this as well.

Did you miss the bit about corruption in Ukraine?

Gee, I wonder why Belarus doesn't have this problem?

I do business in Ukraine; I'm well aware of conditions on the ground there.

Belarus is reduced to a feudal family enterprise, with all resource allocation and import-exports tied in there. The system is thoroughly corrupt but with only one major stakeholder on the top.

Belarus is a craphole because they have a dictator who only cares about farming. But/thus he isn't afraid of dealing with criminals.

Ukraine is a craphole because of corruption not because it liberalized.

Belarus, as the article clearly states, unlike Ukraine, isn't a craphole at all.

Saying "muh corruption" isn't an argument. Russia had a problem with corruption as well until they elected a patriotic strong man who got it under control to the point where oligarchs were no longer fighting pitched gun battles in Moscow. What's your plan for dealing with neoliberal induced corruption in Ukaine?

Seriously? No corruption in Russia since FSB officers have themselves become oligarchs? Or was there another point?

I love the point and sputter. I said, Putin got corruption under control to the point where oligarchs (none of whom were or are FSB agents) are not fighting pitched street battles in Moscow. As a result their GDP, unlike Ukraine's, is doing fairly well. They even have a GINI index better than in the US. Imagine that!

Do you have a plan for fixing Ukraine's corruption under the neoliberal looter regime the US put in place there?

Russia's gdp is directly proportional to oil prices, not oligarchs arrests. You can google for charts if you like. No, I do not have a plan for Ukraine. In fact I think no plan would make any difference at this point

I don't need to google for charts to know that you're regurgitating an addle-pated neocon talking point. Oil prices are down, Russia's economy, despite sanctions, is up. I guess autarky ain't so bad after all.

Russia manages to field new nuclear submarines, new ballistic missile designs, a nuclear ramjet cruise missile and various other insane technological contraptions. Meanwhile in the US we need to hitch a ride ... with the Russians, to achieve low earth orbit, and we've shipped our heavy manufacturing capabilities to China and Mexico. But hey, at least we design iphones in California!


Ukraine did not "liberalize" it. The economy was destroyed by "privatization", which effectively meant giving away state resources to those already with money and power - the former Communist class and criminals.

It was planned post-Soviet chaos, and chaos attracts grifters and opportunists. The regular people down in the trenches had no clue that they were being robbed blind.

> Ukraine liberalized its economy and it pretty much destroyed the place.

The Russian invasion destroyed the place.

Don't be thick. A handful of oligarchs seizing all the wealth created by Soviet "slave" labor and sharing very little did destroy Ukraine long before the loonies in Lviv decided to overthrow the shameless crook from the Donbas.

> Overthrow

Oh you mean the invading Russian forces.


> By the next morning, soldiers in unmarked uniforms had taken the Crimean parliament and raised the Russian flag. Throughout the day, the little green men—as the irregular Russian soldiers came to be known—fanned out across the city, capturing government buildings. Soon, behind closed doors and under Russian guns, the autonomous region’s parliament voted to request Russian security assistance.

If you comment about those issues, it would be nice you knew something about it.

Ukraine is very liberalized economy, perhaps more than in the west - and yes, the results are less than stellar, for a complex number of reasons.

About Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia the economic results seem OK, but the social one is close to tragedy: in 3 Baltic countries emigration has been terrible, and the lost a large part of their population, threatening the social fabric. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health...

Your comment is pure ideology.

Why is emigration bad? It is good. People who left started earning more, and people who stayed, started earning more.

The only ones who see that in a bad light are pro-nationalist lackeys that put the state above an individual person.

It's a win-win.

Industry and even agriculture decline in Baltics are a major reason for emigration. The old EU countries got cheap labour and killed competition. Do you really think the Ignalina power plant was closed for environmental reasons? And the lack of funds for the trans-baltic railway, was it due to these countries lack of cooperation?

>people who stayed, started earning more

Citation needed on this one.

Note though that when many of the former soviet economies liberalized some of their economic and social outcomes were initially not so great. They experienced high inflation and, in some cases, a sharp drop in life expectancy. [1,2]

I understand that some economists explain the high inflation by saying that pent-up demand was "unleashed" after the Soviet Union collapsed. To me this seems kinda hand-wavy (is it possible to measure pent-up demand?).

On a related note, something that comes close to a natural experiment is a comparison of the economic history of Finland and Russia. Finland was part of the Russian empire and, like the rest of Russia, was very poor at the time. It then broke away during the civil war, which is, of course, around the time that Soviet communism began to take root. Meanwhile, a little later, Finland took took a different economic path and instead implemented some social democratic policies and is now per capita richer than Russia and indeed many countries in Europe. [3]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_economy#Transition_...

[2] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.LE00.IN?location...

[3] I realize Finland is not a perfect social democratic economy, but it is a closer approximation than most European economies

Even during soviet occupation, all of the Baltic countries were already way ahead,compared to the likes of Azerbaijan or Kazachstan. There are many more reasons,such as mentality, culture, geographical location and education that influenced it. Economical model was only one piece of the whole picture.

> There are many more reasons,such as mentality, culture, geographical location and education that influenced it.

These traits are the same in Korea, yet there's a drastic difference between South and North.

Estonia and Lithuania despite democracy and economic reforms are well known money laundromats for Russian oligarchy (see for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danske_Bank_money_laundering_s...).

Check out Slovenia for a counterexample. You can do either approach badly or well.

sorry I don't get it: what is Slovenia a counterexample of? It seems to be a fairly wealthy country now, with a market economy and liberalised services.

A huge chunk of their economy are state owned companies. They didn't privatize everything like most other post communist countries and they are still doing rather well. They are quite small, so not directly comparable to bigger countries but still interesting.

Since when is Slovenia a former soviet state?

It's not a former Soviet state, being a part of former Yugoslavia, which was a member of the non-aligned movement.

It was, however, a stong-man communist dictatorship.

I'd also be curious the effect of EU funding - I know Estonia received hundreds of millions if not billions over the years on development and I'd guess it's much the same for Latvia/Lithuania as well

Latvia received EU subsidies of 2.76% of GDP in 2017 [0]. It contributed 0.69% of GDP, for a net EU contribution to Latvia of 2.07% of GDP.

According to government posters pasted all around Latvia, EU support constituted about 12.8% of government budget(!), or 9.6% net after accounting for Latvia's contributions to the EU budget.

[0] https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries/member-c...

Look at Germany. It’s a better experiment. Former democratic part got billions from westerners and didn’t evolve far. They got basically new infrastructure build from western money, but people left former communistic paradise. Salary gap is still huge. That’s why Tesla picked location there and not in the western part of the country.

The US has similar variation in GDP per capita in its states, despite having had essentially the same economic system at least back to the civil war over 150 years ago.

A much more nuanced story can be told about Germany, see eg https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/10/31/germans-still-do... .

When it comes to the Tesla factory, it will be right outside Berlin https://www.dw.com/en/tesla-factory-outside-berlin-to-cost-4... .

Berlin is in the east of Germany. I live in Berlin, and have considered cycling to Poland and back as a day trip.

One of my German coworkers remarks often that wages for any given job in former-DDR-areas are much lower than the same jobs in pre-reunification-Bundesrepublik-Deutschland-areas.

Berlin was both. Hence why they had to build the wall.

West Berlin was a political enclave in DDR. ~150 km from the inner German border [1]. Just outside Berlin is pretty much ex-DDR territory. At the same time Berlin does have quite a strong foreign community and high migration, lately negative for Germans and positive for other ethnic groups [2]. It is the second largest city (by population) in Europe after London with much lower living costs [3]. Also Daimler and BMW have strong presence in Berlin. Those factors may have influenced the Tesla's decision a lot.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inner_German_border

[2] https://www.statistik-berlin-brandenburg.de/produkte/kleines...

[3] https://teleport.org/compare/berlin-and-london/

Yes, but the Tesla factory is “just outside” Berlin, so I didn’t feel that detail was important in this case.

What are you talking about? Counter example to what?

Sadly the EU is not that eager on taking new memberships right now. Look at North Macedonia and Albania's potential membership negotiations getting initially opposed we are too busy right now and then conditioned by France ok, but one step at a time.

After the backlash they got after opening up the borders with Bulgaria and especially Romania it would be political suicide to open up for Albania.

Albania maybe but Noth Macedonia? 2.1M people. The EU took more refugees from the Middle East than there are N. Macedonians. The Republic of Serbia has signed a free trade agreement with the Eurasian Union (Russia's version of the EU).

Why was the backlash for Romania greater than the one for Bulgaria?

Not GP but in Spain we have ton of Romanians, and it’s one of the most popular “blame the immigrant” targets. You can see how that becomes a political problem.

(I don’t agree with those views, I’ve been to the country a couple times and I think the culture and the people are beautiful)

I'm not really picking sides here, but the roaming gangs are really visible compared to regular Eastern European immigrants. There's just this watershed moment when the Romanian borders opened where all of a sudden you started noticing them, while the influx of for example Poles was much more gradual and consisted of mostly people that came with the idea at least to work.

I know that Romanian criminals, from petty to violent and organized, have been a thing in Spain since I was a kid, well before their entry into the EU.

That being said, what I saw in fact after their adhesion was that the quality of immigration seemed to improve (at least from what _I_ could see). Good number of honest and sometimes very well-educated people in services.

I guess the question to ask respective to their adhesion is whether the total amount or proportion of Romanian-origined criminality increased.

Roma or Romanian? It's also hard to tell what time you had your childhood.

Romania is 5-6 times bigger.

Just about 3 times as population and migration.

Romania is bigger


Pickpoketing was already rampant in certain big European cities without the Eastern Europeans.


Personal attacks are not ok here and we ban accounts that post them.

Your comment would be fine without that last bit.


jayalpha 12 days ago [flagged]

I don't see the insult. I should have recommended the poster this book: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/385.On_Bullshit

You wrote: "Before you talk [...] you may want to apply some reasoning". That's plainly an insult, and your reply here just found a way to repeat it. Posting like this will get you banned on HN, so please just don't.

Georgia suffered a massive civil war from the time the Soviet Union fell until 1995, that caused its GDP per capita to fall by 2/3 to 1995. The economic reforms happened in the 21st century and growth since then has been very quick. From Wikipedia:

> Since the early 21st century visible positive developments have been observed in the economy of Georgia. In 2007, Georgia's real GDP growth rate reached 12 percent, making Georgia one of the fastest-growing economies in Eastern Europe. The World Bank dubbed Georgia "the number one economic reformer in the world" because it has in one year improved from rank 112th to 18th in terms of ease of doing business. Georgia improved its position to 6th in World Bank's Doing Business report 2019.

What civil war?

>Estonia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Latvia were tech hubs during soviet time.

Please provide references.

It is well known. VEF, Eletrotehnika, Tondi Elektroonika and others. Also big biotech hub in Soviet times. AFAIK. Even the first soviet atomic bomb was partly build there ("Sillamäe").

I spare you the details for the Czech republic since this should be well known. They were always an industrial and manufacturing hub, even during German occupation in WW2. Airplanes, Tanks, guns, cars (Skoda!), machinery etc. Don't forget, they are a comparably small country.

We're now a full generation since the west "won the cold war" and I think it's just now that our "wartime" mentalities we're ready to think past simple binary communism-x-capitalism binaries.

For example, "privatisation." In Russia & parts of the west, privatisation was a major 90s policy.

But like everything else, details can outweigh labels. One privatisation is not like another.

There's a massive difference between encouraging/allowing entrepreneurship, & "selling" state sectors to "private" owners.

I use scare quotes there because the "sales" were generally paid for with state-backed loans and the "private" owners are either multinationals or "oligarchs" as we now know the "private" Russian buyers.

The former is closer to a capitalist ideal, but doesn't affect the "key industries, at least not fast. The latter is instant, but it also involves something approximating giving away a state's wealth for free.

One big hindsight problem Soviet privatisation encountered is a running theme in modern "capitalism:" the failure/inability of states to get value for/from it's owned assets & wealth.

Neither western economies, Soviet ones or post-soviet ones have a tool in their toolbox for this. Norway's oil fund might be the one exception.

Privatisations are disasters because they are designed to be. Its proponents want to see the state fail.

The privatisation in post Soviet Russia was even worse than you tell. It was fraud, theft and deception.

The article talks about Belarus’ low levels of economic inequality, its Soviet past and the continuing heavy hand of the state and the KGB but it fails to connect them. I would be shocked if government employees don’t have a far higher standard of living than their pay packages would suggest. This is a less severe case of the problem with using Communist era statistics on income to track inequality as if they’re equivalent to the “same” measurements in the post Communist era. If access is more important than money and you measure money things can be very unequal and you’ll have no idea by looking at the statistics.

Agreed. Many government workers and state company employees in Belarus receive different forms on non-monetary compensation. Subsidized apartments etc., although these benefits things are slowly going away.

If the main leverage is oil more than export markets, it would be awesome they can tangle some sort of big environmental deal with the EU to up their negotiating position.

Putting aside the realpolitik, after the west completely bungled the post-soviet transition just about everywhere else in a fit of market-worshiping obliviousness, I'd say they owe it.

> Glaz also pushed back against the whole concept of Russian subsidies, arguing that Moscow is obliged to sell energy to Belarusian companies at the same price as to Russian ones under the integrated market rules of the Eurasian Economic Union, to which both countries belong.

Russian mafia run by Putin sees "Eurasian Economic Union" as a source of money for their thief pool (obtshak). I.e. it's designed for the sole purpose of extracting resources from those territories. It's not built to give anything back to the people in the participating states, except for collaborationists which sell off their countries to that mafia. So joining it is clearly a damaging idea for any state, and only happens due to corruption of the local government.

The people of Belarus know they don't live in democracy while the citizens of many other countries think they do.

>> Rolled over through the centuries with Moscow's wars with other parts of Europe

What a profoundly backward perspective. It's the other way around. Belarus was a part of the Russian Empire. So much a part of it, in fact, that the long form of the title of the Russian monarch contained its name. You can't "roll over" something you already own. It wasn't Russia's wars with European states that repeatedly fucked up Belarus. It was Europe's wars with Russia. Napoleon and Hitler were two notable examples - both defeated, but both rolled through Belarus first, killing and raping everything that moved.

It was only temporary part of russian empire (for about a century), with every attempt to fight it drowned in blood. During that time russia tried to exterminate any self-identity, forbidding to even have a name and calling it "north-western area". To get an idea of what was happening in that region historically you may read about Great Duchy of Lithuania

Another point to consider: much of the Rus (Ruth) that russia claims to be descendent of is modern Ukraine and Belarus lands, and historically they were figthing most of the time with moscow armies.

>Another point to consider: much of the Rus (Ruth) that russia claims to be descendent of is modern Ukraine and Belarus lands, and historically they were figthing most of the time with moscow armies.

Russia claims to be descendent of many things, from vikings to Byzantine Empire, from slavic tribes to mongols. Russia is a mix of many things, where Kiev and Kievan Rus is just one of the main starting points. Not to mention that Kiev became the capital only ofter Oleg captured it after leaving Novgorod. Not to mention that any fights between Moscow and whatever entity you are talking about have happened centuries later.

And even if we are talking about geography only: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kievan_Rus%27#/media/File:Prin...

here is the map of the Kievan Rus (1054-1132). Lands of the modern Ukraine and Belarus take less than a half of the territories as can be clearly seen. Even considering that this is a 'flat' map.

russia is indeed big so I will not make broad generalizations, but I've never met any russians who would claim vikings, byzantines or mongols as someone russia has originated from (for many mongols is a conflictive/sensitive topic though, but not in an acceptive way). I'm looking at dominating there slavic 'Rus' history view.

Well, those are historical facts. Not sure about the russians you've met, but they surely have read about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_route_from_the_Varangian... at least. Not to mention https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rurik_dynasty

And you can't really have any talk about Russian state over here without mentioning that 'Russia is still a Byzantine Empire descendant'. Even newspapers usualy mention that: https://www.gazeta.ru/comments/2016/05/30_e_8271917.shtml (in russian, obviously)

Anyway, this topic has lots of material if one is interested.

145 years continuously (and on and off before then, dating back to Peter The Great), then 74 years under the Soviets. A pretty good chunk of time IMO.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarus and 'Establishment history' there. 1795-1918 - 123 years.

"Soviets" was a union of 15 republics, not one big russia.

To your original comment: russia absolutely didn't behave nice on that land at any time in history regardless of who they were at war with.

1772 to 1917 my man. Russia could not afford to "behave nice" back then. Every 100 years or so some European idiot monarch would hatch a harebrained scheme to attack it, only to get his ass handed to him a few years later.


your original comment was that it wasn't russia that was bad for Belarus historically but those europeans..

and I'm not your man

> the long form of the title of the Russian monarch contained its name

the British royals had "Emperor/Empress of India" in their full title until 1948.

Titles don't doesn't mean much.

Russia is in decline due to the same reasons the USSR declined and fell. The costs of communist oligarchs taking the products of their 'slaves' and wasting them on assorted diseconomies with not enough production feedback. There is a joke where Ivan says to Modred in Mpscow, "you know that after the next 5 year plan we will all have our own personal aircraft?", Modred then says "Excellent, if we hear they have matches (or toilet paper) in Vladivostok, we can fly there and be first in line!). Now Putin has imposed a from of the same system that 'overtaxes' by kleptocratic means essentially all the growth the current free 'slaves' create. Thus the amount of work product (money, stuff etc) each of these 'slaves' has at their disposal decreases every year. This is well documented in unofficially reported economic aspects of life. The reported ones are glorious. Military expenditure is essentially a complete waste of money, as it is in the USA, however the USA bears it more easily from it's far far larger base. China is the bear in tha dark that China is readying it's military for - they have nothing to fear from the USA but fear itself. China fears the assembled warheads Russia has - against which it has no defence. Sure it can bomb Russia back, but Russia has it's nor-so-secret cobalt submarines.https://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a24216/pen... a few dozen of these could devastate and dender into death zones for 100 years large swathes of China. This will make China think twice about expanding into the Russian far East. Russia has a population in serious decline. Only the Moslem areas are growing. Other Russians are in a devastating decline https://www.fairplanet.org/story/simply-math-no-russians-by-..., So why does Putin not change? He has the classic Tiger by the tail problem. He and his fellow oligarchs have beggared the Russian economy - how does he unbeggar it? He can not. He can only hand on until he is inevitably devoured by the tiger - or his own friends when he tries to rein them in!

ah home sweet home

Hi guys, I'm from Belarus, co-own a software development company in HighTechPark in Minsk and would like to drop my "five pennies" here.

First of all, as we all live in diff countries, we have diff perception of what is good or bad.

Moreover, we are live in humanism-driven era, that means that "there is no authority expcept of me and my feelings".

In Middle Ages God and Priest told you want to do and what is beautiful, good or bad.

In Socialism, Nationalism or Communism the Ruling Party told you what to do.

In Liberalism and more democratic countries Capitalism and MNC (Multinational corporations) gaining more power and "providing the offer you can not refuse".

Whereas in Middle Ages there was no growth, now everyone is obsessed with growth. And we would know the answer "who was right" only after we would come into a lack of resources and an ecological disaster due to consumption rates.

So, as I'm not an authority for you, just focus on your feelings when you read the text below.

I would say, that Belarus lives in autocrasy, rather dictatorship. The President doesn't tell everyone what to do. We all have a freedom of choice, can study, learn foreign languages and go abroad.

Many people did that, doing that and will be doing that. The country is facing a challenge how to solve that question.

Singapore's advice would be: bring more investors to the country to build enterprizes. There are issues with that. Same time, there opened "The Great Stone" project, where you can invest $500K into a manufacturing enterprize and get many tax exemptions for many years (terms are very attractive and competitive in World). You would get access to low-cost workforce and get profits.

Could be better? Yes. Could be worse? Yes. Can we improve? Yes.

ICT industry is one of the growth drivers and magnets retaining some of young people from moving abroad.

President's decree #8 prolonged preferences for HighTechPark (HTP) until 2049, gave legislation to cryptocurrency ventures (although there is only one cryptocurrency exchange so far) and let our companies buy ads, hosting and other digital services from abroad without paying 35% tax on top.

3 years ago there were 160 companies in HTP, whereas now ±600. IT sector is booming.

Not only as R&D or devcenters as in other ex-USSR countries, but also product-based companies and startups.

We have some remarkable stories:

1) Apalon (acquired by IAC) was in #10 in the World by downloads in AppleStore.

2) Mobile Games made in Belarus were downloaded 3 500 000 000 (3.5bln) times. That is not only Wargaming. We have plenty of other games studios (including our own subsidiary).

3) EPAM (10bln evaluation)

4) Wargaming (was mentioned above)

5) exp(capital) and a group of its companies have a turnover of $2bln (yes, billion per month) according to it's owner Victor Prokopenya.

6) There is a good food brand: Santa Fish and Santa Bremor with a 1bln turnover per year (they produce products from salmon, $1bln also includes another milk brand "Savushkin")

7) Viber (acq by Rakuten), PandaDoc, Maps.me (acq. by Mail.ru), MSQRD (acq by Facebook), AIMatter (acq by Google)

Total turnover of HTP companies would be $2bln+ this year (the initial investment in HTP was $40K and a small cabinet with a table and a chair, not millions like in Russia's Skolkovo gone astray).

I think for a country, which is only 27 years old these results are exceeding all possible expectations.

In 2016 I did a research on local IT market, you can view it here: https://www.slideshare.net/alexgrakoff5/belarus-it-outsourci...

Inspired by that research, EY did there own: https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-it-industry-in-...

The main limits of growth for my company is: we don't have a foreign office and can't sell at a higher price at the moment and the speed of salary growth in IT-industry. There is no President involved in that.

I would say, many businesses have benefits now because of a lower salaries (for some period of time). And I can't imagine now hiring a sales in US for $200K/year.

Btw, I think now it is more cost-efficient to have a Belarus company, owning a US company to sell digital services. You would have to pay 1% income tax and 9% dividend tax.

Do you know many stories of successfully built countries from scratch without "open source framework"? Singapore, and maybe a few others.

Do you think that US is only good with the maximum personal freedom?

As you have a freedom market, you get: - constant growth of educational costs - constant growth of health insurance costs ($28k/y for a family) - no limits for mobile plans/TV plans (it can cost $100/m in NY and $200 for TV)

You can read more on that topic here: https://eand.co/why-america-is-the-worlds-first-poor-rich-co...

The cost of property is so high, that you have to work 20 or more years to afford it if you are not a Googler.

The cost of US effectiveness is that one can easily get homeless. They say "our society tends to support mistakes and getting bankcrupt". I've been in 10 countries during last year and never saw such amount of homeless people as in San Francisco, California.

And it can take 7 to 10 years to rebuild your credit score: https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education...

Eventually, everything is quite complicated, but in general during last 10 years many positive changes happen and this is noticed by all people who come to Belarus.

Our country has a big potential in many industries, not only IT, just not everyone has the right knowledge to make profit on that potential.

There are much better (and almost viciously critical articles) written on the subject even 5 years ago [1]

There were similar predictions in 2014

>"... Lukashenko does face problems. Russia is cutting its subsidies.

Belarus struggles to sell its outdated tractors and trucks in an age of global competition. The economy is deteriorating. ...

Russia's President Putin could engineer Lukashenko's removal simply by stopping subsidised oil and gas deliveries altogether. Belarus receives roughly four times more Russian oil than it needs for domestic consumption, refines the surplus and sells it on the open market for a profit. Putin must be tempted. He loathes Lukashenko, who has cleverly played Russia off against the EU over the past 20 years, reneged on promises to Moscow, and frustrated Russian attempts to gain control of the Belarusian state gas company, pipelines and refineries.

... " [1]

These predictions did not really turn out to be true in terms of regime change or Venesuela-like horror.

There are very few countries in the world, that in the last 100 years experienced what Belorussians did:

> ".. The Nazis killed more than two million Belarusians - a quarter of the population.. " [1]

> "... Chernobyl disaster of 1986, which contaminated a fifth of the country and millions of its people ..." [1]

In a way, it explains a bit of how people think there... Basically, as long as it is not worst then before -- than we are ok. And one can see from above, the 'before' was really bad...

Belorussians are not going to revolt, if there is a forced change in leadership, the transition will not be perfectly peaceful, but will not be bloody, And it will only happen to a person that Putin is ok with.

Russian is pretty much 'the language' in that country, and really the affinity to Russia goes far beyond the language. In way of political views/desire to change -- Belorussian's are much milder than Russians'.

Comparing Belarus to Estonia or Lithuania, in terms of 'what-would-happen', I think are wrong. Those republics received a lot of help from the West, and are culturally (including language) were much more aligned with Finland/Norway.

Belarus would more likely compare to a land-locked countries like Armenia or Albania.

Many who did not like the regime, immigrated to Germany. Lukashenko is not holding anybody from leaving.

Law enforcement in Belarus is one of the highest paid government-paid jobs. So state apparatus used to monitor opposition (but unlike in US, they do not need to cheat FISA courts, those things are already 'built-in') Especially, when it comes to foreign-sponsored opposition


Organisers of the protest, linked to George Soros, called the march “Freedom Day”, evoking the independent Belarus that lasted just six months after the First World War, in 1918. They tried to march down one of the major streets in Minsk, but were blocked by police who arrested them, along with journalists covering the protest, Alexander Ponomarev told AP news agency.

..." [2]

In terms how Belarus is positioning itself in the worlds import/export markets

It is same way, as Politicians use their family members and charity foundations to do money loundring and bribes.... Basically a mechanism to avoid sanctions and laws...

https://belsat.eu/en/news/mensk-patlumachyu-rost-ekspartu-be... >"... The fact that Belarus is supplying the Russian market with the enormous amount of exotic tropical fruits cannot but sparked a massive public outcry. Although the fruit isn’t grown in the Eastern European country, the export of kiwis went up by 151%.

At the same time, the ban imposed by Russia clearly prohibits re-export, and that is exactly what Belarus is suspected of by Moscow.

The Belarusian Prime Minister claims that the fruits supplied should not be affected by sanctions.


Same goes, probably for military equipment exports...

[1] https://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/article/belarus-dictatorship-a...

[2] http://freewestmedia.com/2017/03/26/another-soros-colour-rev...

Technically Belarus and Russia form the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

Some speculate that Putin might want to turn this paper union into reality before his term ends and become president of the union. He would avoid neatly term limits for Russian president.


That article was 8 years ago.

Fast forward to 2019, recently the Belarus' ambassador to Russia said that the presidents of Belarus and Russia approved plans to establish a common government and parliament. [1]

Their plans seem to be progressing. December 8th should be some kind of proclamation about the state of the union.

[1] https://belsat.eu/en/news/lukashenka-putin-agree-on-single-p...

Pretty sure someone like Putin knows how to pull the strings without actually being the president of anything.

My guess: not going to happen. The vast majority of people in Belarus oppose a state union with Russia. Also the president (Lukaschenko) has nothing to gain from this. Surprisingly he has been very hesitant to give in to various Russian demands, openly criticizing Putin at world stages and in the media.

Since Russia is subsidizing Belarus, they can start tightening the screws on Lukaschenko politically any time they want.

Belarus is just one military exercise away from Russians taking over. Every time these countries have a big joint military exercise in Belarus there is possibility that Russian troops might not leave when the exercise is over.

>> there is possibility that Russian troops might not leave when the exercise is over.

Why they would do that? Unless you organize a pro-West revolution like in Ukraine. It is possible but making people dirty poor and desperate can take a decade like in the latter case.

That's what the article is about. Most big employers work for Russian market. If Russia stops buying - Belarus doesn't have deep pockets to sustain for years without trade. People most often live from paycheck to paycheck, so if suddenly a lot of them lose their jobs - escalation will be quite rapid.

This qualifies for Sci-Fi I think

> This qualifies for Sci-Fi I think

No it doesn't. It's by far the most likely outcome going forward.

"Putin’s Retirement Plan Depends on Belarus"

"To retain power, he is positioning himself as the leader of a closer union between Russia and its dependent neighbor."



That is by Leonid Bershidsky, one of the best columnists in the West re Russia. He essentially never strays into conspiracy theories or similar junk.

I am not sure what makes this art detective writer best authority on the situation. Looking at first link, aside of few obvious facts his conclusions read like delirium to me. Think I'll stick to my own opinion regarding the subject.

> At the plant’s health clinic, 560 doctors and staff use sleek Western equipment to provide care from routine checkups to surgery, including laser eyesight correction.

So they are showing off equipment produced by Capitalism? How does that work to prove their point?

All this talk of how everyone is cared for feels so cozy. I can understand the desire for tight knit community. Everybody working for the greater good of all. Everybody equal, why should anyone dream of more? No one left behind under leadership of the great Sacha. Sure there is KGB and repression but nothing unnecessary.....

But the reality is that most humans are fundamentally competitive and fundamentally awful creatures. Only thing they will do given all this is find ways to beat the system to give themselves advantage over others.

Dear communism, it's not you, it's us.

>>>Dear communism, it's not you, it's us.

Any system that doesn't take into account the realities of the human condition is about as practically-applicable as the Borg Collective. No amount of self-loathing will change that, or solve our collective problems.

I hope you will change your tune in future. You're not wrong, but its still bad.

The first sign of lousy journalism is the chart of poverty with the $5.5/day limit, like the cost of life is measured in dollars and it is the same across the board. No, it is not, in some places $1 is the equivalent of more than $10 in other countries.

They mean purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars, nor US dollars. That's how the World Bank measures poverty.

Traditionally purchasing power parity dollars are used for comparisons across countries. Would be nice if journalists specified but you can pretty much assume that’s what their sources used


Otherwise, as you say, these comparisons are meaningless.

No, it is not pretty much assumed because most readers are not experts in the area to know about PPP; I double checked the article, there is no mention about PPP in any form: bad journalism.

There was in the chart of per capita GDP.

Always interesting how money data is usually offered up with no context; almost always a ploy to guide thought. In one of my case law classes, the professor had us read a Friend of the Court letter from the CEO of a company that specialized in the wiring for both consumer and industrial vehicles. The case centered on factories being offshored. The CEO was attempting to demonstrate how they had bent over backwards to keep their operations local and their pay high, and as an example he said how starting pay in ~1973 was $7 an hour. The teacher rolled nodded and smiled at the groans of dismay from my woke classmates, and soon followed a round of complaint and anger for the wealthy. Instead of getting pigeon holed as a right-wing shill, I googled the value of 7 1970 dollars in 2019, which was roughly $40. Imagine a world wherein low/no-skilled (by silicon valley view) labourers could start at $40 an hour working for a CEO that works to keep jobs in the country he owes his success to.

A bit of an aside, I know. But it is so frustrating how we've surrendered context for controversy so we can drum up rage and clicks instead of understanding they complicated reality. I hear Belarus is very clean and many of its citizens love their country, but that's probably propaganda.

The “PPP” in the graph is easy to miss, but is what makes the comparisons possible.

Can you point where is that PPP in the graph? Not only it is not mentioned, but not even the year of the data: "most recent" is terribly vague, even if true.

The title says “GDP Per Capita, PPP”.

Except that Central African and continental Europe climates require vastly different expenses to stay alife. PPP is not much better than US dollars.

How vast are the differences in expenses needed to live (due to climate or otherwise)?

>The first sign of lousy journalism is the chart of poverty with the $5.5/day limit, like the cost of life is measured in dollars and it is the same across the board. No, it is not, in some places $1 is the equivalent of more than $10 in other countries.

Assume that's true: $55 a day to support a family still sounds like shit to me, depending on how you enumerate that.

for reference, that daily value multiplied out for an equivalent monthly wage covers about two thirds of my base monthly rent.

That is not counting heat, hot water, and electric bill. Also not counting food, internet, phone, clothes, health coverage, gas, insurance, etc.

i live in the US northeast; $19,800 a year is ~16% below the poverty line for a family my size this year https://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty-guidelines.

So sure. that sounds like poverty to me.

You probably don't live with family members in a poor neighborhood if your rent is over US$200 a month per person.

Section 8 pays about $1200 for a 2 bedroom in my city.

by the standards of my area, let’s go with “middle middle class”.

$19,800 a year ($55 a day) is, indeed, a fucking struggle to live and support a family on here. (urban area, new england)

If you can support a family on a single salary, you aren't anywhere close to being poor. But I think we're talking about US$5.5 a day, not US$55.

contrariwise, if there's no jobs (or you broke yourself in a job and can't work, or .. ) .. you might not have a choice.

The poster i was originally replying to was complaining that $1 US a goes further in other places and "could be like $10"; my point is that that's still pretty poor!

Poverty is extremely relative. What you consider poor is someone else's rich. I was born in one of these countries with less than $5.5/day and not owning a car was not considered a negative, nobody had one in the entire village, but nobody considered themselves poor. Now we are considered wealthier than one of the countries in that chart (we are neighbors) and the government considers 45% of the population is poor. even if our "poor" neighbor is listed with just 16%. The conclusion: lying with statistics is a fact of life.

The poverty rates in the article are consistent with what one might call abject poverty, as the chart lists the US having 2% poverty but our government considers about 12-13% to be currently under the poverty line. Ours is apparently calculated based on the cost of food. The World Bank uses absolute dollar PPP measures. They’re all blunt instruments that can’t compare individual situations. But the World Bank approach is a good way of measuring trends and comparing countries overall. Georgia looks to be in dire straits, for example.

Georgia has black markets that far exceed Belarusian black markets in volume. Lots of Georgian stats are skewed because they do not account for black market.

There's plenty of single parent families out there.

You can't talk of Belarus now, and keep China out of the picture.

If people says that East Africa is China's 24th province, than Belarus would be double of that.

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