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Belarus: World Bank Says Economic Reform Going Backwards

Minsk, 25 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - The World Bank's resident representative in Minsk says Belarus continues to back away from reforms and is increasing state interference in the economy.

Christopher Willoughby, who opened the bank's Minsk office three years ago, told a press conference there yesterday that the main obstacle on the path to reform is on the political level. He said economic restructuring has been in reverse since late 1995 and since then, the bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have suspended their lending activities in Belarus.

Willoughby, who is moving the office to Kyiv, Ukraine as part of a bank reorganization, says he has been struck by the fear of the result of reforms in Belarus, even to trying to repeat the Russian privatization experience.

He said Belarus' main resource is its human work force. As he put it, the work force must be freed. But instead, he says state interference is strengthening.

Before leaving Minsk, Willoughby is signing a new memorandum of understanding between Belarus and the bank, which spells out the reforms the bank would require to resume lending. He told reporters, however, that the situation in Belarus is worse than it was two years ago and officials in Washington say no new loans are being considered.