Domestic market borrowing potential is not exhausted yet
On April 25th, First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Amarin announced the Ministry’s plans to involve USD 300-400 million from the domestic foreign exchange market in 2013.
Belarus has successfully coped with international debt payments. The international trade situation raises concerns due to growing negative trade in goods balance, which may require additional monetary resources. Due to the instability in the international financial markets, borrowing in the domestic market remains the real source of low-cost international debt refinancing.
In Q1 2013 Belarus paid off USD 330 million of international public debt. It had no impact on the gold reserves volume because in January 2013 Belarus received USD 440 million from the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund. The domestic foreign exchange market situation is characterized by net currency supply, both from legal and natural persons, enabling the National Bank to buy certain volumes of currency supply and pay off international debt without reducing the international reserves’ standard.
According to preliminary data, international trade in goods balance and international services in Q1 2013 were positive at USD 279.4 million. This amount does not include export duties on oil products – Belarus has listed more than USD 1 billion to the Russian budget. Due to further growth of Belarus’ international debt and potential deterioration in foreign trade, Belarus will need further borrowings for the timely repayment of her international liabilities. The domestic currency market situation may change soon, and the National Bank will not be able to buy foreign currency in the domestic foreign exchange market. The EurAsEC ACF fifth tranche, to be allocated by late April, will create the necessary reserve for payments in Q2 2013, but will not be sufficient to make all payments due in 2013.
Due to unfavourable international financial market situation, Belarus’ Eurobonds placement has been postponed. The Finance Ministry relies on domestic market borrowings. Two debut issues of state foreign currency bonds for individuals, worth USD 50 million were sold off, the third issue, worth USD 50 million with a two-year maturity period is nearing its completion.
On April 24th, one of the Belarusian banks bought government’s foreign currency bonds worth USD 75 million at 6.9% per annum for a 4 year-period. On April 25th, Belarus held the first auction for foreign currency bonds at pre-announced 7.25% interest rate per annum for 3 years. The demand exceeded supply by half.
In addition, two largest state-owned banks, Belarusbank and Belagroprombank, issued foreign currency bonds for individuals on similar in terms as government bonds, but with shorter maturity period - one and a half years at 7% per annum. Bonds sales are successful, which means the domestic foreign exchange market has bigger borrowing potential.
Thus, both natural and legal persons can provide the state with their own available resources at acceptable rates. There is certain potential for bigger borrowings and the state sees no difference where the money for refinancing of the public debt comes from. The next logical step would be the appearance of the secondary market for the state currency bonds for individuals.
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.