CSE and CIS
Until recently Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were seen as the countries with the best governing standards, the most solid banking systems, the most open to foreign investors and with generally predictable politics. There used to be a pretty easy split between the good and bad halves of central Europe but today it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell them apart.
Despite very high global oil prices, Russia has entered a period of considerable economic slowdown. The possibility of continuing economic growth relying on natural resource-based export, with increasing involvement of the state, has worn out. Yet, Russia is unprepared for the new situation, it has no ideas for necessary changes and steering its economy out of the woods.
The Ukrainian parliament voted the law granting the Cabinet the right to pay its expenses to businesses with Treasury bills up to unlimited value. This practically breaks the central bank’s monopoly on the monetary policy.
"Poland is in a very difficult situation in terms of its relations with neighbors, but all the disagreements between the country and its neighbors should not affect their economic relations. With only one exception: Russia. Money that comes from Russia has to be controlled and not every Russian investment should be allowed", Edward Lucas, a longtime correspondent from Central and Eastern Europe for The Economist, says.
William Browder, a grandson of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party USA, became one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia at the end of the 1990s. Mr. Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital, who was initially an avid follower of Vladimir Putin and a critic of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, suddenly became public enemy No. 1. In 2006 he was expulsed from Russia on the claim that he poses a threat to national security. Soon afterwards some corrupted officials illegally seized his company. The company’s lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky, who exposed the scheme, was jailed and afterwards died in prison in mysterious circumstances. Mr. Browder did not lay down his weapons and started lobbying against corrupted Russian officials. Owing to his efforts, contrary to the suggestions of the Obama administration, in November 2012 the US Congress passed the so-called Magnitsky Act – banning several dozen individuals responsible for the lawyer’s death from entering the USA and freezing their bank accounts.
Recession looms over Ukraine. The oligarchs rule. A currency crisis may break loose at any time. Foreign investors demand a high risk premium, some of them retreat. High interest rates hamper domestic investment, while domestic consumption is stemmed by recession. And we do not have the first idea how poor our neighbour is.
Alexander Lukashenko remains firmly in control of Belarus's politics − as shown by the unsurprising result in recent parliamentary elections that saw his supporters take all 110 seats − but his biggest challenge in the next months will come from the economy.