Belarus’ gold reserves would grow only if net currency sales by population persist
According to the National Bank, as of March 1st, 2017, Belarus' gold reserves totalled USD 5022.3 million, i.e. increased compared with February 1st, 2017 by USD 37.3 million. The last time Belarus' gold reserves exceeded USD 5 billion was in January 2015. Amid deteriorating foreign trade, the increase in the reserves was due to borrowings by the National Bank and the Finance Ministry on the domestic currency market. Additional government securities in foreign currency are likely to be placed on the domestic market, and banks are likely to raise subsidized loans from consortia of foreign banks. Meanwhile, foreign trade situation is unlikely to improve. Lower interest rates on national currency loans unlikely not have a significant impact on currency demand from legal persons due to the lack of a sufficient number of reliable borrowers within the country. In January-February 2017, the population sold more than USD 290 million on a net basis. Artificial measures to boost people’s incomes could reverse this trend and without the net currency sales by the population, Belarus’ gold reserves unlikely to grow.
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.