The most important element of any society is its economy. If the people are not fed, it does not matter if they have a huge range of political rights or not. If people cannot ensure that they will be able to retire or find gainful employment, they cannot be expected to praise the system which fails them, no matter who they can choose to elect.
Here are a few statistics on the Belarusian economy which will shed some light on just how incredible it is in comparison to other post-Soviet states. In 2009, Belarus’s GDP per capita (PPP) was 285.83% of its 1992 level. Belarus has had sustained economic growth (in terms of GDP per capita PPP) since 1996, which continued even through the financial crisis of 2009 (Index Mundi). For comparison purposes, Russia’s GDP per capita (PPP) in 2009 was 190.73%; obviously significant, but Russia has a massive advantage in terms of raw natural resources and yet still fell behind (Index Mundi).
“But wait,” you may be saying, “isn’t that all oil growth?” Well, no. Firstly, Belarus’s “subsidies” from Russia have been significantly cut down recently. Secondly, prior to 2007, Russia paid $0.75 per 1,000 cubic meters passed through 100 kilometers of pipeline in Belarus; after 2007, Russia paid $1.45 (Understanding Belarus and How Western Foreign Policy Misses the Mark). This is significantly below the Ukrainian rate, which in 2009 was $1.70 per 1,000 (Jamestown Foundation). In other words, while Belarus was paying little for its gas, Russia was paying little for its transit.
Thirdly, the early growth (1996-2000) can be attributed to “a first-mover competitive advantage for Belarusian exporters” caused by a “considerable (albeit artificial and temporary) price advantage for Belarusian producers” (World Bank. The later growth (2000-2004) can be attributed “especially indirectly” to a “drastically improved external environment” by “accelerating Russian growth and Russian demand” as well as “steadily rising domestic demand” as a result of “excessive government involvement in the economy” (Ibid).
Less than 1.6% of Belarus’s population subsist at less than the lower regional line of PPP $2.15 a day, and 26.6% subsist at less than PPP $4.30 a day, in comparison to 18.8 percent and 50.3 percent in Russia, 3.0 and 29.4 percent in Ukraine, and 5.7 and 30.9 percent in Kazakhstan (World Bank). The unemployment rate in Belarus is one of the lowest in the world, at about 1 percent, while Russia suffers from chronic unemployment, currently at 8.4% (CIA World Factbook).
The real reason why western capitalists loath Belarus is not because of its “undemocratic nature,” but purely economic: Belarus is a socialist state. Belarus’s Gini index is 27.9, one of the lowest in the world (CIA World Factbook). Over 80% of agricultural land is state-owned and most agricultural land is communally farmed (Australian Government). As of 2000, only 10% of Belarusian enterprises were privatized (Nations Encyclopedia). About 55% of the economy of Belarus is spent on the social safety net (Valery Dashkevich).