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Belarus

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

Although SOEs are outnumbered by private businesses, SOEs dominate the economy in terms of value. According to the Belarusian ministry of taxes and duties, the share of small and medium-sized private enterprises in the revenues of the country’s consolidated budget was 35 percent in 2021, the same as in 2020. Belarus does not consider joint stock companies, even those with 100 percent government ownership of the stocks, to be state-owned and generally refers to them as part of the non-state sector, rendering official government statistics regarding the role of SOEs in the economy misleading. According to media reports, SOEs receive preferential access to government contracts, subsidized credits, and debt forgiveness. While SOEs are generally subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as their private sector competitors, private enterprises do not have the same preferential access to land and raw materials. Since Belarus is not a WTO member, it is not a party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).

8. Responsible Business Conduct

Belarusian laws and policies include no notion or definition of responsible business conduct and, consequently, take no measures to encourage it. Independent trade unions and business associations promote the concept of responsible business conduct.

In the aftermath of the fraudulent 2020 presidential elections, civil society organizations and opposition political figures sought to draw the attention of multinational companies and foreign investors to the human rights situation in Belarus. For example, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions worked with a Norwegian fertilizer company Yara through its relationship with state-owned potash producer Belaruskali to improve respect for workers’ rights and safety at Belaruskali. Yara later suspended its dealings with Belaruskali due in large part to Western sanctions. Civil society organizations outside of Belarus continue to engage foreign investors and companies on political considerations inside the country. Many multinational corporations decided in 2021 and 2022 to withdraw from the Belarusian market and terminate advertising contracts with state-owned Belarusian media because of continued human rights abuses by the GOB and its support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus does not allow private military or security companies.

9. Corruption

Official sources claim that most corruption cases involve soliciting and accepting bribes, fraud, and abuse of power, although anecdotal evidence indicates such corruption usually does not occur as part of day-to-day interaction between citizens and minor state officials. In Belarus, bribery is considered a form of corruption and is punishable with a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and confiscation of property. The most corrupt sectors are considered to be state administration and procurement, the industrial sector, agriculture, trade, and the construction industry. In 2020, Belarusian courts convicted 684 individuals “on corruption-related charges.” However, corruption and financial crimes charges are often used by the government for political purposes. Furthermore, the absence of independent judicial and law enforcement systems, the lack of separation of powers, and the lack of independent press make it difficult to gauge the true scale of corruption.

Belarus has anti-corruption legislation consisting of certain provisions of the Criminal Code and Administrative Code as well as the Law on Public Service and the Law on Combating Corruption. The latter is the country’s main anti-corruption document and was adopted in 2015. Belarusian anti-corruption law covers family members of government officials and political figures. In December 2021, Belarus’ parliament adopted in the first reading amendments to its anti-corruption law, seeking to improve prevention and streamline the interaction of government agencies in fighting corruption.

The country’s regulations require addressing any potential conflict of interest of parties seeking to win a government procurement contract. The list of these regulations includes the July 13, 2012 law “On public procurement of goods (works, services),” the December 31, 2013 presidential decree “On conducting procurement procedures,” and the March 15, 2012 Council of Ministers resolution on the procurement of goods (works, services). Government organizations directly engaged in anti-corruption efforts are prosecutors’ offices, internal affairs, state security and state control agencies.

Belarus is party to several international anti-corruption conventions and agreements. The Republic of Belarus has ratified major international anti-corruption treaties, such as the Convention of the Council of Europe 173 on criminal liability for corruption (S 173) (concluded in Strasbourg on 27 January, 1999); the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, signed by Belarus in Palermo on 24 December, 2000, and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (concluded in New York on 31 October, 2003); and the Civil Law Convention on Corruption (concluded in Strasbourg on 4 November, 1999) (ratified in 2005). Belarus also signed several the intergovernmental agreements to address corruption.

In 2019, the Council of Europe’s (COE) Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) publicly declared Belarus non-compliant with GRECO’s anti-corruption standards. This was GRECO’s first ever declaration of non-compliance. According to the COE, Belarus failed to address 20 out of 24 recommendations made in 2012; had not authorized the publication of the 2012 report or related compliance reports; and was non-responsive since 2017 to requests from GRECO to organize a high-level mission to Belarus. The majority of GRECO’s recommendations related to fundamental anti-corruption requirements, such as strengthening the independence of the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office, as well as increasing the operational autonomy of law enforcement and limiting the immunity protections provided to certain categories of persons. However, the COE contends that limited reporting indicates that corruption is particularly alarming higher up in the government hierarchy and in procurement for state-run enterprises.

According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, Belarus fell from 63rd down to 82nd place out of 180 countries in the rankings and received 41 of 100 possible points on its scale, down from 47 in 2020. For comparison in 2021, Poland ranked 42nd, Lithuania 34th, Latvia 37th, Ukraine 122nd, and Russia 136th.

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