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Belarus: Minister Says EBRD 'Lacks Understanding' Of Country

Kyiv, 11 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Belarusian Deputy Prime Minister Vallery Kokorev today told a group of western bankers and potential foreign investors that press reports have distorted their view of his country.

Kokorev made the remark at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's meeting in Kyiv today after global business leaders asked Belarusian delegates a series of blunt questions about the lack of reforms from Minsk. Kokorev told those attending a seminar on Belarus that they "lack an understanding" of his country.

When one Russian delegate questioned Belarus's large amount of barter trade, Kokorev responded: "Belarus has better foreign investment laws than Russia."

But Kokorev also said that Minsk does not want to give preferential treatment to foreign investors because such policies would "put an end to domestic production." Kokorev told the seminar he was "reluctant" to discuss potential privatizations in a public forum, but invited those interested to meet with his panel privately.

National Bank Chairman Petr Prokopovich said Minsk will keep the country's inflation rate within a range of 2.5 to 3 percent per month for the rest of this year. He also said Belarus plans to free up exchange controls and liberalize prices this year.

At the end of the seminar, one London investment manager asked the Belarusian officials: "Do you ever plan to cooperate with the International Monetary Fund?" Foreign Relations Minister Mikhail Marinich said that despite a breakdown in relations, the situation would be clear in the autumn when an IMF team arrives in Minsk to review the country's latest economic policy proposals.