Lawyers in Belarus have been active in recognizing the potential of blockchain and the crypto-industry, says Sorainen Belarus Country Managing Partner Kiryl Apanasevich. “Belarus has been promoting blockchain culture over the last couple of years and adopted new legislation on the subject a year ago,” he says, referring to the country's Decree No. 8 on the Development of the Digital Economy that came into effect in March 2018.
“It was really hyped and everyone was expecting some practical outcomes in the form of multiple ICOs, blockchain-based transactions, regulated institutions like e-banks, crypto-exchanges, and so on,” Kiryl reports. “But the anticipated shift in favor of crypto-markets did not happen.” He sighs, noting that the problem is a global one. “Probably the main reason is that 2018 was overall not the best for the crypto-economy, which started shrinking even before the Decree came into effect and was steadily going down on the global scale for almost the whole year as a result of many factors, including various restrictive measures taken by different governments, in particular China and the US. The pressure by the biggest states made a very substantial impact on depreciation of this market and its attractiveness.”
Still, the changes in Belarus's legal landscape remain significant, Apanasevich says. “With more innovations and progressive regulations brought to the Belarusian legal framework from English law,” the newly adopted Decree No. 8 was a significant boost to Belarus's IT industry and its Hi-Tech Park. As a result of this and preceding efforts, he says, “the entire eco-system of IT was somewhat transformed into a very modern and dynamic environment, and currently the IT industry is the most attractive part of the Belarusian economy.”
In addition, Apanasevich is optimistic about the effects of the IT industry on other areas in Belarus. “It is interesting to see how this industry is positively affecting other sectors: high demand on brand-new office and residential properties, banks are catching up with standard of service, the demand for English and other foreign languages is rising everywhere, and the night life is getting louder in Minsk, similar to European capitals.”
In addition, he says, 2019 promises to be interesting for Belarus due to the Eurasian Games in the summer, the potential start of election campaigns in the fall, and further interaction within the Eurasian Economic Union. Apanasevich says that “we, lawyers, do expect and hope the government to advance further with favorable decisions towards business, and the upcoming year is overall expected to be mild for investors.” He adds: “Such optimism is also a reflection of the positive development of relations with the EU.”
Finally, Apanasevich refers to the turbulent times in 2010-2016, which saw a material devaluation of the local currency, and he notes the growing economic stability that have followed in the years since. According to him “there is rather moderate and humble growth, but at the same time, it had an impact on the stability of the currency.” Thus, he says, "now the biggest challenge is to continue the same path and ensure sustainable growth through the gradual transformation of the economy into modern digital animal for the next years to come.”