Authorities continue searching for currency sources
In late July Belarus plans to attract a $ 1 billion credit for the supply of potash fertilizers or for assets of Belaruskaliy, said Vice-Premier Vladimir Semashko.
Vladimir Semashko added that the inflow of foreign currency could be secured via placing public offers of shares of large domestic companies on foreign stock markets. In particular, with the “Deutsche Bank” they are investigating opportunities to place IPOs of BelAZ on foreign stock markets.
Vice-Premier Anatoly Tozik met with Vice Minister of Commerce of China Chen Jian and said that the swap agreement which was signed two years ago should be implemented with greater effort: back than Belarus and China swapped USD 3 billion of the national currencies.
The country needs an urgent influx of foreign currency. In January-May 2011 the requirements of commercial banks in foreign currency to the central bank increased from USD 531.7 million to USD 4.538 billion by 1 June. In the meanwhile the gold reserves calculated by the IMF standards went down by USD 1.438 billion in January-May and reached USD 3.593 billion, which is the lowest since 1 September 2009. The foreign currency liabilities of the National Bank to the banks exceed the volume of the international reserves by USD 944.8 million. In other words, the National Bank does not have sufficient funds for one-time payment for current liabilities to the banking sector, which casts doubt on the ability of the National Bank to discharge its liabilities in foreign currency in a timely manner.
Due to the lack of money, the country finds itself in a virtually “pre-default” state. The authorities need to find funds in the amount of approximately $ 5 billion urgently (before October). There are only two sources of revenues: new loans and privatization. The authorities work in both directions, however it is clear that the conditions put forward by the President are not satisfactory for the potential investors and creditors. Moreover, all representatives of the highest authorities (Lukashenko, Makey, Myasnikovich, Semashko and others) talk about some potential revenues and transactions in order to reduce stress and reassure investors and the population.
Accordingly, the government continues its difficult negotiations and at the same time it adopts a directive related to distribution of foreign currency earnings in the country and actively uses other administrative tools. The authorities try to tighten the monetary and fiscal policy (demands put forward by Russia and the IMF), as well as to fulfill the requirement of the IMF concerning the single exchange rate. The IMF yields for a single exchange rate as a requirement for granting a new loan, while the authorities plan to come to a single exchange rate by the end of 2011 (Br 5,000 per USD) and they need the loan to maintain the exchange rate at the level established by the National Bank.
It is obvious that this year IPOs will not be held: as a rule their preparation requires a couple of years. Possibility of a USD 1 billion loan under the condition of future privatization of Belaruskaliy or supply of fertilizers is questionable and denied by the Russian investors. Therefore, given the absence of privatization deals, investors have every reason to doubt the medium-term solvency of the country.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.