First-ever Pact-sponsored economic forum takes place in Belarus

Independent analysts, international experts and policymakers met in Minsk today under the auspices of the Kastryčnicki Economic Forum, or KEF, a new Pact-sponsored public platform designed to promote open dialogue and economic reforms in Belarus.

The conference, entitled “New opportunities or old challenges? Scenarios for the Belarus Economy,” included discussions about the necessity of economic reforms following the 2011 economic crisis.

In a rare attempt to engage with the public and not just policymakers, three think tanks—the Research Center of the Institute for Privatization and Management (IPM RC), the Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC), and the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE) — organized the KEF, which was open to the public and broadcast live through the Internet.

The first session of the conference looked at export trends with Belarus’s main trading partners. The second discussed Belarus’s ongoing economic crisis, including economic stagnation and continued emigration of working-age Belarusians. The third session assessed the opportunities and limitations of regional development, including restructuring public enterprises.

The three think tanks teamed up with Pact and the privately-funded Association of European Businesses in Minsk to create the KEF as a permanent platform under the slogan “Harvesting ideas for sustainable development.” KEF was also supported by the biggest Internet portal in Belarus and featured high-level speakers from the government, yet another rare example of private-public partnership.

Pact offered strategic advice and assistance to support the creation of KEF, building upon sporadic previous civic efforts. KEF was conceived to be a forum where leading local, regional and global policymakers, business leaders, and media could publicly discuss the future of the Belarusian economy on a permanent basis.