National Bank of Belarus cancels the supplementary trading session on the Stock Exchange
On 26 April the National Bank reported, that there was no need to introduce an additional session at the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange.
The National Bank explained, “Opening of an alternative with respect to the main trading session requires considerable preparatory work of a technical nature, as well as creation of favourable conditions for sustainable and efficient operation of the supplementary session.”
Therefore we were proven right with our predictions. The NBoB postponed the alternative session, because 1) it could not perform as a full scale player during the trading session, and 2) chances were high that the rate would exceed the one “recommended” by the government: Br 4,500 per US Dollar, therefore de facto devaluating ruble by 50% (on Thursday, 28 April the NBoB withdrew its oral “recommendation”), and 3) commercial banks and enterprises have efficient legal schemes to circumvent various “recommendations” and work based on the currency rate determined by the demand and supply, bypassing inter-bank market.
Randomness and inconsistency of the decision-making at the highest level of the country speaks in favour of the lack or failure to have a clear vision of how and what to do and their inability / fear to explain what needs to be done to the president.
Indeed, in the first decade of May the banks will make single transactions of purchase and sale of foreign currency between their customers at the market rate of Br 4500-6000 per US Dollar. It is already clear that the long-awaited $ 1 billion of the Russian stabilization loan will be spent on critically depleted reserves of the BNoB as soon as it is received, and that the currency will not reach the exchange offices of commercial banks. On the one hand, it meets the strategic interests of the government for the moment being (“cutting” the consumption of the imported goods and restricting the currency export from the country), on the other, it jeopardizes the economy and provokes continuously rising discontent of the population.
A single currency exchange rate today means an uncontrolled devaluation, not feasible for political reasons. Accordingly, the authorities will try to keep the situation as it is by any means and will try to bring down the devaluation expectations after receiving loans and by selling assets. A single currency exchange rate today means an uncontrolled devaluation, not feasible for political reasons. Accordingly, the authorities will try to keep the situation as it is by any means and will try to bring down the devaluation expectations after receiving loans and by selling assets.
The recent initiative of the NBoB to meet the demand of the so-called currency requisitions of the third queue, i.e. to pay off foreign debts, confirms this trend. Very few of those in the need were able to purchase the currency for these purposes, however, before the long weekend those who need to pay the loans were reassured and would likely wait for another week, without pumping up the devaluation expectations. As a result, the exchange rate on the interbank market fell to Br 4800 as the upper margin (it was as high as Br 5300 on 28 April). The cash market has also adjusted itself downwards.
The National Bank has supported the tendency by expressing hope that the narrowing range of the currency rate fluctuations will become a sustainable trend.
However this policy is a risky business, a huge number of disaffected market players, facing the inability to repay the loans at the official rate, could inflate it to the new heights, increasing the gap between the official and unofficial exchange rate by 100% by the end of next week.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.