Belarus counts on new loans to close international deficit
The National Bank of Belarus on December 12, 2011 increased the refinancing rate from 40% to 45%. By gradually rising interest rates the authorities fulfill the requirements of the ACF of the EurAsEC. Raised rates will significantly reduce business activity in the country and strengthen recessionary expectations.
The EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund will make the second transfer of $ 440 million to Belarus in December.
The National Bank forecasts that the volume of international reserves by the end of 2012 will amount to $ 7 billion. The main sources of foreign currency proceeds are projected from foreign direct investment ($ 3.7 billionfrom privatization), and from foreign borrowing by banks ($ 1.7 billion).
It is extremely important for the Belarusian authorities to receive all tranches of the USD 3 billion loan of the EurAsEC in 2011-2013 (USD 1.24 billion in 2011).
To this end the authorities are going to fulfill the requirements of the ACF and gradually raise the interest rates. On December 12, 2011 the National Bank of Belarus raised the refinance rate by 5 %, from 40% to 45%. At the same time interest rates for bank liquidity support operations were raised from 65% to 70% per annum.
Higher interest rates are still far from positive values as the annual inflation exceeded 100%. However this increase was enough to receive the following transfer of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund.
In the meanwhile increased rate becomes an additional factor that “cuts down” domestic demand from businesses and residents. Therefore 5% of the GDP growth will require significant emission injections, which will stir upinflation and will cause a new wave of devaluation expectations. The only way to achieve 5% of the GDP growth not via emission and in compliance with the EurAsEC and CES requirements is to increase exports by at least 10%, which is particularly challenging, given the low competitiveness of Belarusian enterprises.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.