Belarusian banking sector shakes off disrepute

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April 22, 2016 18:25

U.S. government has imposed sanctions against a number of Belarusian banks, which hampered their operations. The new requirements for banks’ regulatory capital triggered the ownership change process for small and medium-sized banks. As a result, the Belarusian banking sector will get rid of banks with dubious reputation, improving the Belarusian financial system’s image.

On January 22nd, 100% of Onerbank shares were sold to the BCSE for EUR 5.1 million.

The new edition of the Banking Code, which took effect on January 22nd, 2013, set the schedule for banks’ regulatory capital requirements. According to the NB Board’s decision No 522 from October 30th, 2012, as of January 1st, 2014, the minimum regulatory capital for an operating bank has been set at EUR 15 million, and as of January 1st, 2015 - at least EUR 25 million. A number of banks in Belarus do not meet the new requirements and need additional resources to continue operations. 

U.S. government sanctions were introduced against two Belarusian banks with Iranian capital - Onerbank and Trade Capital Bank for supporting Iran’s nuclear programme. Sanctions against Credexbank were introduced in connection with allegations of money laundering in favour of fictitious companies. Sanctions hampered operations of these banks. Onerbank and Credexbank needed to capitalize on emerging regulatory capital requirements and as a result they were sold to new owners. 

In early 2013 the Credexbank’s ownership structure has changed. The bank’s new owner is Russian Starbank. The bank has been renamed into InterPayBank and it will focus on the development of payment systems and terminals in Belarus. 

On January 22nd, Onerbank was bought by two entities, not related to the banking sector of Belarus or the EU. Inter alia, the banks’ ownership has changed partially because of the sanctions against the bank. 

Thus, two of the three banks, just like Info Bank, have changed owners and following renaming and rebranding will no longer raise U.S. government’s concerns. Moreover, they will meet the new National Bank’s requirements on the regulatory capital and will continue operations in Belarus. The Bank Torgovyj Kapital meets the regulatory capital requirements, but it is possible that it will be pushed for ownership changes. As a result, the U.S. government will have no more claims to any of the banks in Belarus.

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President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.

President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.

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