Belarus Repays Obligations in Foreign Currency Ahead of Schedule
According to a source in the state administration, JSC “Belaruskali\" will make an early repayment of the loan to Savings Bank of Russia in the amount of USD 1 billion. On November 18, 2011 in Minsk, the Savings Bank of Russia and the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) signed an agreement on the provision of a syndicated loan for \"Belaruskali\" of USD 1 billion total. The share of the Savings Bank amounts to USD 900 million.
The total sum of the loan was transferred to the account of \"Belaruskali\" in JSC \"BPS-Savings.\" After that, the sum of the loan equaling USD 800 million was added to Belarus’ gold and foreign currency reserves.
In March 2012, the Group of the Savings Bank of Russia suggested the Belarusian government to refinance the credit. However, the terms of refinancing did not satisfy the Belarusian side due to a high interest rate on the loan.
The National Bank, in its turn, fulfilled the obligations to the Belarusian banks worth more than USD 400 million within the frameworks of transactions with deposits in April ahead of schedule.
The main donor to the Belarusian National Bank was the Belvnesheconombank to whom the NBB has fully paid off its debt.
For reference. As of April 1, 2012, the National Bank’s obligations in foreign currency to the banking sector amounted to USD 4, 51 billion.
In the situation when the demand for ruble loans is declining (due to the high interest rates), it is more profitable for the Belarusian banks to close the transaction on the exchange deposits with the central bank, i.e. to receive foreign currency back, by paying the National Bank its ruble equivalent. Consequently, the released foreign currency might be used to provide new lending to enterprises. It is now prohibited by law to provide loans in foreign currency to residents of Belarus.
However, to revitalize the ruble lending the National Bank continues to gradually reduce the refinancing rate. So, from May 16, 2012 the refinancing rate is to be reduced by 2 percentage points to 34% per annum. The upper limit of interest rates on liquidity support operations of the banking system is to be decreased from 60% to 55%. The refinancing rate on operations on the withdrawal of liquidity is to be reduced from 23% to 20% per annum. In fact, the National Bank is now a market maker in the country’s money market. It regulates the basic interest rates of financial market operations by using standard short-term withdrawal of ruble liquidity (overnight deposits, short-term bonds). So, as of May 11, the National Bank has withdrawn from the banking system 8.24 trillion rub., which is about USD 1, 019 billion. This is a significant number, even according to the Belarusian standards. The National Bank is forced to withdraw the excessive short-term ruble liquidity from the banking sector in order to reduce pressure on the exchange rate of Belarusian ruble on the domestic foreign exchange market.
It should be emphasized that the repayment of the country and Central Bank’s obligations in foreign currency ahead of schedule will facilitate the debt burden of servicing the foreign debt nominated in foreign currency. Moreover, some improvement in terms of raising funds in international financial markets for the residents of Belarus might be expected.
It can also be added that as political tensions between Belarus and the EU reduce, there is a slight decrease in yield on Belarus’ two Eurobond issues. According to Bloomberg, May 11, 2012 the first issue of Belarus’ Eurobond maturing August 3, 2015, traded at a yield of 10.487% (bid), and 9.951% (ask), the second issue maturing January 26, 2018 - 10.38% (bid), and 10.119% (ask). If the yields on sovereign bonds fall below 9%, the Belarusian government may start preparing the placement of new bond issues.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.