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 Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.