The Anti-Crisis Funds tranche came just in time
On April 30th, the National Bank announced the immediate availability of the next tranche of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund at Belarus’ Finance Ministry accounts.
Belarus’ failure to comply with a number of the loan terms did not hamper the funds’ transfer. The tranche was received on the last day of April, enabling to demonstrate the international reserves’ growth on May 1st, 2013. To maintain the international reserves at USD 8 billion Belarus needs additional loans, due to continuation of the negative trends in the foreign trade in 2013.
The allocation of the 5th tranche anticipated certain problems for the Belarusian government. In a letter of intent to the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund, Belarus assumed an obligation to sell state property worth USD 2.5 billion by late 2012. The fifth tranche was transferred on April 30th regardless of Belarus’ failure to comply with this clause, which while not being mandatory, reflects Russia’s greatest interest. One possible reason for the timely transfer could be a series of agreements on military cooperation, which is a sensitive issue for Russia.
In April 2013 gold prices dropped – price of gold per troy ounce in the international markets fell by USD 129.25 per 1 ounce, which devalued Belarus’ gold reserves by USD 175-180 million. In addition, in April the National Bank paid USD 280 million on external public debt. Taking into account the potential foreign currency net supply from individuals, the international reserves could reduce to the NBB indicative value USD 8 billion. Availability of USD 440 million and its inclusion in the gold reserves as of April 30th, will enable to demonstrate the reserves’ growth, compared with April 1st, 2013.
Belarus can get the last tranche of the Anti-Crisis Fund not earlier than November 2013. Foreign trade balance is negative and the upwards trend is not observed. Monthly international public debt payments make at least USD 200 million. Stable and lasting net foreign currency supply from individuals should not be anticipated due to lower interest rates on ruble deposits. Domestic market borrowings are feasible, but their volume is not sufficient to maintain the national gold reserves at the desired level. Belarus needs new loans to support the economy amid certain crisis in the global economy.
Thus, Belarus once again found a way to convince Russia to allocate the necessary funds, allowing Belarus to show economic stability in Q1 and Q2 2013. But the country needs to find new credit sources, because there are no foreseeable incomes in the next six months, and she will hardly manage to maintain the international reserves at USD 8 billion without additional revenues.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.