Consumer lending is unlikely to improve until incomes start growing
According to the National Bank, as of January 1st, 2017, consumer debt of Belarusians totalled BYN 1.7 billion and increased by BYN 59 million over the year. Provided the average interest rate on consumer loans in 2016 at 24.4% per annum, interest payments on loans could exceed BYN 400 million. People preferred to repay old loans rather than taking new ones. Financial health of banks mainly working with consumer lending is likely to deteriorate, layoffs in the banking system are likely to persist, and interest rates on loans are likely to decrease, while banks will preserve tough requirements for borrowers to prevent growth in bad loans. Unless people’s wages start growing, they are likely to constrain consumer spending, and in order to boost sales, enterprises are likely to use instalment schemes and calculate some costs as own costs.
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.