Economy - The Belarusian economy remains mostly state-controlled, as in Soviet times. Over half of the business are state controlled and foreign ownership is under 4%. The country is relatively stable economically, but depends to a large extent on raw material supplies, such as oil, from its close ally Russia. Agriculture is dominated by collective farming, with major sub-sectors being the cultivation of potatoes and cattle byproducts, such as meat. The biggest export of Belarus is machinery, such as tractors and defense equipment.
Historically important branches of industry include textiles and wood processing. After 1965, the development of heavy industry and mechanical engineering (tractors, refrigerators, etc.) significantly strengthened the country's development. Within the Soviet Union, Belarus was one of the most industrially-developed republics and was the most developed CIS state at the fall of the Soviet Union. Economically, Belarus involved itself in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eurasian Economic Community, and Union with Russia. Soon after 1990, industrial production plunged due to decrease demand of Belarusian goods from traditional partners, lost investments and less production of military grade equipment. Gross domestic product (GDP) for 2006 was $83.1 billion in PPP dollars (estimate), or about $8,100 per capita. In 2005, the gross domestic product increased by about 9.9%, with the inflation rate averaging about 9.5%.
The biggest trading partner of Belarus is Russia. According to government statics, 48.6% of the total trade was made between Russia and Belarus. The largest European Union member that traded with Belarus during that time period was the Netherlands at 7.5%. Due to an agreement between the EU and the former Soviet Union, Belarus was able perform bilateral trades with EU member states. Textiles were exported from Belarus to the EU, only 0.1% of total EU trade is performed with Belarus. Failing to achieve political goals, such as the protection of rights and liberties, Belarus was not permitted to receive benefits from the EU's Generalised System of Preferences program. Belarus has applied to become a member of the World Trade Organization since 1993.
Over four million people comprise the labor force in Belarus, with women holding slightly more jobs than men. In 2005, nearly a quarter of the population were employed in industrial factories. Employment is also high in agriculture, manufacturing sales, trading goods, and education. The unemployment rate, according to Belarusian government statistics, was about 1.5% in 2005. The number of unemployed persons totaled 679,000, with approximately two-thirds being women. The rate of unemployment has been decreasing since 2003, and the overall rate has been lower since statistics were first taken in 1995.
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