Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A bit more about the budget…

The Ideal of "New Soviet Man": The monumental sculpture "The Worker and the Peasant Woman" ("Rabochy i kolchoznitsa", V. Mukhina) is 79 feet (24 meters) in height and was first exhibited on top of the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris World's Fair (Exposition Internationale) in 1937. Produced in 65 separate laminated stainless steel pieces weighing 75 tonnes, it is now located close to the site of the All-Russian Exhibition Center (VDNKh) in Moscow.
BelTA had today several economic articles of the same sort of idea that I mentioned in my post about isolation two days ago. I combined all three on the BHTimes, so you can jump over and have a look if you want.

But echoing my point that Belarus is in fact fighting tooth and nail against the Russian Gas issue, the statistics mentioned show that during the five-month period of January to the end of May of this year, foreign trade in goods and services grew by 19% to $20,507 billion.

The article goes on to say that exports grew by 16% and also imports grew by 21.8%. Again, the export number is really colored by the gas and oil deals. In fat it is later mentioned that Russia accounted for 48.3% of the total trade turnover.

But it is still interesting to note that during this period of time, Belarus is said to have done business with 160 countries exporting to 125 states and importing from 140. Now this number is a bit lower than last years which might very well reflect the sanctions and embargos America and Europe have placed on Belarus, but still the numbers only represent the loss of 10 or fifteen countries over-all. I say that if you combine that there really was not so many countries which shied away as a result of all of the negative hype with the increased productivity in all sectors, you have a country which is by no means dead.

A couple of thoughts come to mind though.

Firstly, despite such a heated and acerbic agenda, the USA doesn't seem to have any problems selling its products here. You can buy a coke pretty much anywhere and Sprite and Fanta are available too. And just this morning we got a bag of Estrella potato chips- they by the way also have no problem needling their buyers: Their ingredients are printed in Russian and Belarusian. At the market there are literally hundreds of products being sold every day whose manufacture trace directly back to the good old US of A.

But secondly, this business of mislabeling the old cost of Gas and oil from Russia as a subsidy seems not to mesh with these figures. As I mentioned in the previous blog, Belarus during the time of the Soviet Union was about manufacturing. They were the worker's workers. They were also a model for the Soviet Union because of this. And don't think that belarus did not take being a role model seriously. Even to this day, 15 years after, politness and deference are still the mainstay of the culture. Just ask anyone who has been here: Belarusians are nice people.

Don't believe me? Think about it: To even have been named a role model for a worker's paradise would have to be about something relevant, wouldn't you agree? I mean, you could say that it was becausse people were so nice or that because they were honest or moral or didn't cuss, but really the bottom line for winning such a social position would have to have come from somthing they actually did to contribute and this means the work ethic.

And really, this is the truth: Belarusians are notoriously hard workers. Devotion to one's labor is still one of the most recognizable trademarks. Pretty much all modern Belarusian philosophy and culture is based on getting the job done and being resourceful. Proof of this could come from during some of the worst periods of the post USSR depression: The workers of Belarus maintained social order and continued to work at their jobs, even when there was little or no pay to support their actions.

In fact, another way to try and understand Lukashenko's popularity is to understand that he is speaking to a work oriented public and therefore his demands for discipline and devotion to reaching goals are received by locals as being simply the truth. He isn't seen as an evil dictator here; he is simply the boss of the whole company and is seen as doing a credible job of maintaining things.

With this in mind, I think that the most telling statistic of the article comes from the foreign trade in services which were up 40.6% against the same time last year. Exports of services upped by 32.5% to reach $1,079 billion, imports – by 61% to $514.5 million. Both the size of this number against the whole of the budget and the vast difference between giving and receiving really shows what is going on here. Sure you could say that this number has as much to do with how small wages are, but I say that it is a real indicator of what Belarus is really about. This is no pariah state; Belarus is not sitting around waiting for their welfare checks. This country works, has always worked, has worked regardless of devious, debilitating economies and, when considering US and European sanctions, socially despicable situations as well. And yet, through all of this the country has always managed to show up to work the next morning just the same. To me this is not a country to be laughed at; it is a country to be admired for its fortitude and perseverance.

Oh, and one more stat worth thinking about: The foreign trade deficit stood at $881.6 million but the trade in goods, minus services showed a debt of 1.5 billion. That's the oil and gas folks. Without the price hike (and certainly without all the jeeing and propaganda,) This country turned a profit simply from their labors. There is no need for any "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" talk here. I say to hell with any of you who say the word subsidy. There was no subsity. The situation is that the distributer took all of the profits out of the manufacturing business but the workers came in on Monday morning all the same. Just like they always have. And, if they do get to have their own say about how things in their counbtry need to be, they will continue to do so for a long, long time.

More soon...

20 Comments:

Blogger politiques USA said...

Do you know what's the part in percentage between China and the US for imports to Belarus?
In Europe, at least in France, you can't find that much american goodies over there, maybe more in High Tech sectors (pharmaceutical, medical...etc) and that's about it. I think when you find any american goods in a country, it is a sign that the economy is not competitive, therefore there is a place to create economic alternatives, and it's a good thing.

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

This is what the French think about Poland:
I had to say that I was disappointed with the Polish position that was blocking everything. The EU accepted Poland a couple of years ago and since then this country has only brought problems to the EU: Nationalism, racism, ultra conservative positions etc... Honestly, I am a great euro-enthousiast but I feel that I have nothing to do with the values this country has brought to the western countries of Europe.
http://frenchbullcity.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Excellent quote Steve! Bash 'em with the truth is what I say.

There are two articles about the Chinese over on the BHTimes. The "From the Top" article says that the overall trade turnover with the Chinese has exceeded one billion and adds that China is also willing to do quite a bit of investment in thirty-five different new joint projects. The article on foreign trade says that Chinese trade amounts to 2.4% of the total. Russia accounts for 48.3%, next is the Netherlands at a whopping 8.7% (No moral dilemmas in Amsterdam, right?), Ukraine and Germany have about 5.5% each and Poland gets 3.8%- most of that probably in night vision goggles, underwater pens and other such spy gear. A friend pointed out that they were Polish spies which meant they probably introduced themselves as such at embassy parties.

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Anonymous Bob D said...

Heritage Foundation is conservative. It lists a number of countries and their economic freedom ranking. Belarus is there, too. It is ranked 145. US is ranked 4th.

http://www.heritage.org/research/features/index/countries.cfm

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Heritage Foundations ranks are disputable because they think in terms of geopolitical interests, meaning that they take into account the economic freedom without military power. Freedom is peace first.
I would trust better the GPI which stands for the global peace index, and you'll see that the US won't be ranked at the 4th place but it will go down to the 96th position.

Here is a link:
http://www.visionofhumanity.com/rankings/

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Anonymous Steve R said...

I say it goes down to 196th.

Thursday, July 19, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Economic freedom does not do everything, in a democracy it works both ways, the State takes care of yourself and you take care of the State, otherwise you don't need a State and you don't need to vote. It's not "don't ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".
Economic freedom is more like a state of mind, and usually most of the time it is the most powerful that crushes down the poorest, it's more typical to the anglosaxon culture but it has a price: education won't be free, health care won't be free, retirements won't be taken in charge by the government, ... etc
We can't have everything :)

Friday, July 20, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think bob's point is that such a hardworking people as the Belarusians would do wonderfully if they had the ability to cultivate their own businesses instead of being forced to work so hard in crumbling command-economy industries. You can work very hard at planting corn in Iowa in mid-September, but it would take divine intervention to actually reap an adequate harvest. Not all hard work is profitable work. Economic freedom for individuals lets them choose where their work is best applied.

Friday, July 20, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Economic freedom means there is a minimal supervision from the State with fewer rules. Too much economic freedom is not good, because some sectors should be socialized: energy, health care, education. Why? Because economic freedom does not even create competition in many sectors. The examples are numerous in the US: oil sector, pharmaceutical sector, financial sector. The good thing is they create jobs, but that is all. They surely create wealthier people and poorer ones too, but I often notice that too many people in the US are financially exhausted. That might be a paradox, I am not sure yet at 1st sight, I would have to do a lil bit of thinking.

In Europe, they have the "green book" so that people can have all their chances whether they reside in one country or in another one. Let's say for example someone wants to be a farmer in a very cold country, and it is going to be very hard, but he will get a grant from wealthier european countries so that he can start his own business. This option tends to eliminate geographical disparities, in the name of "equality". In Europe they have a different philosophy. For the French constitution (Universal declaration of Human Rights) since Jefferson was not able to implant the term "equality" in the US constitution because he needed the support of the southern countries during slavery times to draft the constitution, French got luckier in the inspiration of the US constitution. In fact, the main pillars of the French Republic are "Liberty", "Equality" and "Brotherhood": economic freedom is not a big deal for them as long as they have their own freedom, and at least the french State treats them well, although they are not happy enough (riots in France).

I'm going to bed, I'm so $%@@ tired.

Friday, July 20, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

This argument also entails both availability of resources and ability to acquire them. Profitability of any business is based upon delivering to the market some good or service and have it purchased at a price which both covers the cost of manufacture and allows for profit. I think a lot of people misunderstand the philosophy behind socialist economies because they only compare the results to the individual and not to the economy as a whole. Belarus simply does not have a lot of resources at its disposal and never has. But this is not anyone's particular fault; they simply existed outside of every major economic trend of the 20th century. They are however working now, as a group, to try and be available as techs and for moderns production. This is the new goal for Belarusian Higher education. But as far as capitalist enterprises go, turning over their lives and property to foreign banks is simply not what has been wanted. And this is not the fault of the dictator but rather the will of the people. To me the point is to allow the country to be who they are and to have at least a fair chance to grow based upon their talent and heart. I don't believe that cutting every worker lose is the answer. They had this several times and always found a way to 'regroup'. Simply allowing them their place in the market to sell what they have and to make what deals are available for manufacturing contracts is the answer and always has been.
And believe me, a general rise in wages across the board is what really will make them happy.

By the way, if you don't like this answer, please immediately throw away every last item in your house marked 'Made in China'.

Friday, July 20, 2007  
Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Adam

Most people would have to empty their houses of 98% of their furniture, and appliances, along with clothing, dishes, pots and pans, and food...including the dog food. Not to mention, they would probably have to dismantle most of their homes. That would leave us, homeless, naked and hungry (and our little dogs, too!) Sad, isn't it?

Friday, July 20, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

... including dog food and human food as well. Last time I went to walmart, I saw a plate of seafood, it even looked fresh, and the origin was from China. The 1st time I was in the US i was very surprised to find so many chinese products, and people buy them. I don't really like products from China, they are POS, but I hardly find manufactured products from the US, and when I find them, I just can't afford them because they are too expensive.
The US trade with China is in deficit, around 15 billion dollars a year, and this trend won't stop, even with a low exchange rate: they are paid around $2 a day in China.
Here is a little story: I was browsing in an outfit store last time and I had found these very cool pair of italian shoes. When I turn them around to look at the production country, they were from China. So I bought these very cool italian shoes made in China :) Even the boots from Harley Davidson are made in China nowadays, all of that for bigger profits.

In a few months my company wants to delocalize their operation center in India; they want bigger profits and they want to pay less taxes, but I heard lots of US corporations were not satisfied with their business in India and some of them are coming back to the US this year (good news).
Ah these "fat capitalist pigs", not only they want profits, but they want quality too.
Also there is a new trend this year in the US with the call centers: they are trying to split them up into hundreds of other call centers run by people from their home. The reason comes that a call center became too expensive to manage in the US and not enough quality service in India, so they are willing to work with other alternatives.

Sunday, July 22, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I think a very good point to make here is that the Chinese are not particularly complaining. They say that they are beginning to rely more on the big city capitalists, but the fact remains that they are socially oriented (pardon the pun) and because of this allow themselves to see the profits being spread across the board as an acceptable option rather than fighting amoungst themselves for every peanut. A friend who recently went to China gleefully announced that "nothing costs anything!"- This obviously is how people get by on that $40-$60 per person per month. Probably it is a little higher. Belarus though is a little too closely situation to Europe and therefore needs a few more dollars. Most people here agree that an across the board $350-500 allotment would be hvatset- enough. I don't know if this is an interesting thought or not, especially for social minded capitalists like Poly-USA, but I assure you this it is possible to find your personal happiness for a whole lot less than you think.

Sunday, July 22, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

My project in India is not done yet, as long as I am not finished with Canada. These are 2 separate different projects, Canada is a market opportunity and India is the delocalisation of a part of the US operation center. Basically the amount of money invested in Canada and other countries is going to be amortized with a ROI in India.

It is very very hard to make business with the canadian government even in the frame of NAFTA agreement. In Quebec I was talking with the Chamber of Commerce and they are not really helpful, there is no raw data even for the type of business i am looking into at the canadian statistics government, although this type of business does exist. There is a rift between francophone culture and anglosaxon culture. I am a Frenchman that works in the fields of anglosaxon business and most of these businesses in the countries operated under the french napoleonian civil code are essentially operated by the government. Why? Because the function of "welfare state" is completely different between french and english in a historical background:
- In the US, when the 1st Americans came in the free world, there was not an american government yet, it was more like a monarchy with England, so the people had to come up with ideas so that they can help each other, and they created these nonprofit organizations that still exist in the american society. Even later on the american government try to remove them from the people but Americans never trusted their government and they prefered to run them instead. Nowadays all these nonprofit organizations represent more than 9% of the American GDP. These 9% are higher than the GDP of India or The Netherlands. Nonprofit organizations means the gov can't apply a tax and unfortunately many companies operate this way even to make profit in the US. It's not a loophole in law, it only belongs to the anglosaxon culture, that's the way it is.
- By contrast for the francophone case, since our institutions are still based from the napoleonian code, the nonprofit sector is part of the responsibility of the State although we can find private nonprofit companies, but it is mainly a government role: providing for the People.

At least I know I can't open a business in Quebec for this reason, and also because we can't afford to implement a translation center. By law in Quebec everything has to be written in French unless we have the exclusive permission by the contractor to write everything in English. Still Quebec is in my list because it is the 2nd province from Canada to make business with and the 1st one is in Ontario. Geographically by taking into account both of these provinces (Quebec is located next to Ontario province) I'm safe enough to raise a consequent profit: if I locate the company in Ontario, still a bilingual province, by law everything is done in English over there, so people from Quebec will have to work with the english system.

For the case of India, I have different contacts over there, but it does not mean I am not looking only in India. The infrastructure is good in India, especially in Bangalore, but I have strict conditions with this country: I want people to work less than 8 hours a day, I want them to have paid vacations, and I don't want them to work into cubicles. I also would like to pay them more. We'll see how it goes. I may have other opportunities around the world, that is for sure, but the culture of my company is ultra conservative and they want to follow the flock. They don't like China (it's a golden rule for american convervators) and they still see Russia as a legitimate enemy (they are paranoid). BUT ... on my side I will contact you within a few months for a special project. By the way have you checked your emails on yahoo? It may have gone to your junk email. I want to help you to open your bikes' business and you'll have to send me a business plan. And when I say "helping" it means it won't cost you anything.


Adam have you check this blog www.insideusa.net ? This blog is ran by a french guy and Mary Ellen and I are often on this blog. Nowadays it seems like it is impossible to live in NYC, especially on Manhattan side. Even people earning more than $10,000 a month can't afford their rent. So yes I've never really seen the point of making so much money if everything goes to bills. In Manhattan they also want to rise the fees for the parking lots to $120,000 a year. It became unsane.

Sunday, July 22, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Well, you have to feed the machine.

I think i have seen www.insideusa.net before. I hate to sound stupid by I simply cannot figure out the point. It is an advertiser? Generic news aimed at afluent, on-line readers?

Monday, July 23, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

But also you know, I stand over on the corner near the bus stop in our village. Occasionally there are cars going by and I think: $2000 for the used car. Insurance, gas at $3.5 a gallon, oil, tires, mechanical maintenance; and then there is the next car you must buy. How much money do you have to make just to justify being in one of these things? Then there is the pollution from the gas, the oil, the burnt fuel and oil emissions, noise pollution, accidents, dead animals, children, BICYCLISTS…

More often though there are horse-drawn carts and I look at them and think: You grow your own hay or buy a roll for $15 (four or five bags of apples). The horse eats from this in the winter or from the fields in the summer. His emissions help to grow more grass and other field crops and he or she produces next year's model himself. No pollution, no real danger to pets or children and the noise (clip clop) is actually rather nice.

And then I think: In 3 or 4000 years of horse domestication the world got along just fine but in 120 years of auto usage we, this is to say if you believe in the greenhouse/global warming argument, have killed ourselves or at least made the world so filthy and polluted that it is unpleasantly dangerous to be in.

But then again, these are obviously not serious thoughts.

The e-mail (beinghad_mail@yahoo.com) works fine but you have to make the message clear. I get a TON of spam but I at least look at everything before sending it straight to hell.

Monday, July 23, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

sorry it is www.insidetheusa.net

gotta go to werk, bbl.

Monday, July 23, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Aha! Good one. You know, I don't really know that I am all that anti-American at heart. And to be honest, I have a hard time dealing with negativity in general. But for sure going through that site was a good chance to practice my now semi-dormant French.

Monday, July 23, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I posted a message earlier but for some unknown reasons it did not display it. Well the blog is not anti-american at all, it explains lots of things about american society, but I would say that the author of the blog insidetheusa.net does not like Bush at all (great minds think alike hahaha). Also it is not because people hate Bush that they have to feel anti-american.
Have you heard about the word "interculturalist"? This is what I do during my dead time, I try to understand and explain how society works. It is an ideal tool to defuse geopolitical tensions and bigotry of course.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I am sure you are not the only interculturalist in the world, Steve, not by a long shot. I think we used to call this humanism and way, way back when, they thought to call the idea of humans learning to live together well communism or socialism. And even before that there was this crazy Jew a couple of thousand years ago who used to piss the Romans off by saying you should love thy neighbor as you would love yourself. He of course got that idea out of an old book he read on the way to becoming a rabbi. But I think inevitably it is all the same. We just, uh... don't do it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007  

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