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.
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.