Decreasing gold and currency reserves of the country
Net purchase of foreign currency by the population of Belarus in March amounted to USD 768.1 million. International reserve assets of Belarus calculated according to the IMF standards, as of 1 April 2011 amounted to USD 3761.30 million
they decreased by USD 1269.40 million (25.2%) since the beginning of the year, including by USD 262.30 million (6.5%) in March.
Experts estimated more significant decrease in reserves. The relatively small decrease is a result of a number of administrative restrictions and prohibitions imposed by the National Bank on the foreign exchange market. For instance, foreign currency exchange offices of commercial banks’s ability to sell currency to the population is limited by what was bought from the population. Access to foreign currency at the National Bank rate have “critical” importers only (pharmaceutics and energy resources), up to 10% of their demand is satisfied. Interbank market is largely paralyzed due to the low supply of foreign currency and high exchange rates (transactions are made at the rate 20-50% higher than the official one, which is way beyond the capabilities of many importers in view of the limited purchasing power). At the same time, the possibility of manipulation with the gold reserves levels at the end of the month is not excluded due to swap transactions and foreign borrowing. All these manipulations could be verified later, when quarterly payments balance is published. At this point it is noticeable that in the first quarter of the year the demand of the population for gold has increased by 5 times, the gold component of the National Gold and Currency Reserve has also increased significantly. De facto the National Bank bought almost 2.5 kg of gold in March.
If the situation remains unchanged until the end of the month, freezing of gold reserves at the current level will be achieved at the cost of suspension of significant part of business activity in the country.
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.