Ease of Doing Business Rank: 49
Belarus is a landlocked Eastern European country. Latvia and Russia lie to the north, Lithuania and Poland to the west, and Ukraine lies to the south.
Belarus formally recognizes Belarusian and Russian as official languages. However, most people speak Russian (69.8%), as Belarusian is not part of the normal school curricula.
Minority languages include Polish, Eastern Yiddish and Ukrainian. English is not common in the country, except with students of higher learning, those involved in international business or in some government institutions.
The 2019 population estimate is 9.45 million.
Minsk is the capital and largest city (1.99 million), followed by Gomel (489,392). All other cities have populations of less than 400,000, with most under 100,000.
The top industries in Belarus are mining and metal products, chemicals, automotive, rubber, foodstuffs, food production, software production and information technology.
The Times Higher Education World Rankings does not include any Belarusian universities in the top 1,000 in the world and only one in the over 1,000 rankings.
The Legatum Prosperity Index ranks Belarus’ education system 45th out of 149.
The most common type of business entities in Belarus are the individual entrepreneur, general partnership, limited partnership, limited liability company and open or closed joint company.
The overwhelming majority of businesses are in the form of a limited liability company.
Belarus offers a foreign tax credit for companies operating in areas with tax treaties to avoid double taxation.
The country also offers tax benefits for businesses depending on the company’s location, revenue invested, number of employees and business type. These may include a reduced tax on income in particular industries.
Companies may also enjoy a tax holiday on profits in areas such as innovative, high-technology goods; providing revenue from goods sold accounts for at least 50% of total revenue. Revenue earned below the 50% threshold is subject to a 10% corporate income tax.
Belarus also has several free economic zones which offer CIT exemption to registered businesses. Companies may also enjoy a land, real estate and construction tax exemption for 5 years.
Residents of Belarusian High-Technology Parks are exempt for corporate income tax. They do not pay VAT when selling their goods, works, services or property rights in the territory of Belarus. They also enjoy custom duty, land, real estate, and construction tax exemptions within HTP territory.
Employees of companies operating in an HTP only pay 9% personal income tax. Qualified holding companies may also benefit from a tax holiday through the creation of a centralized fund.
Minsk is the most economically developed city in Belarus and the financial center of the country.
Belarus only been open to tourism for a few decades, but it has plenty to offer. The country includes 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the Mir Castle Complex.
Construction of this Gothic castle began at the end of the 15th century. It was extended and reconstructed during the Renaissance and Baroque period. In the 19th century, it was rebuilt again due to the Napoleonic Wars.
Nesvizh Castle is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an elegant Renaissance-Baroque home constructed by the powerful Radziwiłł family, at their peak during 16th century. Once, they owned many palaces, towns, estates and villages across Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Germany.
Brest Hero Fortress is a 19th-century Russian fortification and memorial. It commemorates a small band of soldiers that held off a superior Nazi force. The fortress includes museums and imposing concrete statues.
Belarus also has many areas of outstanding national beauty. These include the chalk quarries with turquoise water near Volkovysk and Naroch National Park, home the country’s largest lake. This park is a haven for wildlife and those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle.
Colonization began when the Slavs entered the region in the first centuries AD. They eventually dominated the region and between the 6th to 9th centuries formed the first unions of tribes.
During the 9th century, records recount a powerful Duchy in the northern regions of the country. They remained the dominant force until the 13th century.
Between the 13th and 16th centuries the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus and Samogotia spanned Belarus, Lithuania, much of the Ukraine and western Russia from the Baltics to the Black Sea. After numerous wars, their power eventually weakened.
In 1569, the Grand Duchy and the Kingdom of Poland formed a union which started a turbulent period in Belarusian history. The state was drawn into a war with Russia in the 17th century and later with Sweden and Russia in the 18th century.
This weakened the state and it eventually lost its independence in 1772, when the western provinces of Belarus were annexed to the Russian Empire. Over the following decades, the area underwent several revolts and rebellions and felt the effects of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia.
During the 1880s, Belarusian students established a revolutionary organization which was a precursor to the first Belarusian national political party formed in 1903.
After the Russian Revolution of 1905, land reforms laid the groundwork for a market-based agricultural system for Russian peasants. The expansion of the railways led to the immigration of 33,000 persons from Belarusian territory to Siberia.
Belarusian territory was a battleground for German and Russian forces during World War I. The Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and the Belarusian People’s Republic declared independence in 1918.
By 1919, the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic began. Russia and Poland fought between 1919 and 1921, which led to a division of Belarus lands. By 1922, the Belarusian SSR was part of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Belarus suffered famine due to Soviet economic policies in the 1930s. Inhabitants were politically oppressed and killed under Soviet rule.
When World War II broke out in 1939, the Germans took over West Belarus and eventually fully occupied the country by 1941. In 1943, a German General Commissioner was assassinated in Minsk and resistance against German occupation grew exponentially.
In 1944, Soviet forces liberated Minsk and the following year the western region of Belarus became a part of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic again.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic became the Republic of Belarus. By 1994, the republic had a new constitution and held their first elections.
Today, Belarus is an independent republic with a democratic government and market economy.
According to the 2009 census, most inhabitants identify as Belarusian (83.7%), followed by Russian (8.3%), Polish (3.1%), Ukrainian (1.7%) and Jewish (0.1%).
According to the 2011 census, the overwhelming majority of Belarusians are Christian. Most practice Eastern Orthodoxy (48.3%), followed by Catholicism (7.1%) and other religions (3.5%).
According to Forbes’ 2019 Best Countries for Business, Belarus is the 88th best country in the world for conducting business.
The 2019 Index of Economic Freedom rates Belarus 104th globally and states, “The government has had some success with deregulation, but broad-scale liberalization has not been a priority. Instead, pervasive state involvement in and control of the economy still severely hamper growth and development, and the small private sector remains marginalized.”
World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings rate Belarus 37th for ease of doing business in the world.