Government is liable for the NPP construction loan repayment
The Ministries of Finance and Energy will be responsible for the use of the Russian loan provided for the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus.
According to the agreement, the Ministry of Finance will transfer all funds of the loan (USD 10 billion) to a public institution “Construction management of the nuclear power plant”. This amount is intended to cover 90% of the costs of each contract with the Russian Atomstroyexport for the procurement of goods, works and services for the construction of two nuclear power units in Belarus. Moreover, the Ministry of Finances must pay interest, commission fees for servicing letters of credit, repay the loan itself, as well as make other payments connected to the loan from the funds of the national budget allocated for servicing and repayment of foreign debts. In turn, the Ministry of Energy has to ensure the implementation of contracts by the Russian partner, and guarantee the return of payments on the loan to the national budget during the period between April 1, 2021 and December 31, 2035.
Therefore, the country’s external debt will be increased by USD 10 billion, making its servicing even more costly for the budget. Moreover, given the current state of the enterprises of the Energy Ministry, it is not yet clear how the Ministry will pay back its share in interest and loan. Most likely, it will not and the Belarusian nuclear power station will become a Russian nuclear power plant in a distant future.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.