National Bank of Belarus is prepared to intervene at a supplementary session of BSCE
The National Bank of Belarus is prepared to use the country’s gold reserves in order to prevent speculative fluctuations of the Belarusian ruble exchange rate during the supplementary session.
Preliminary data says, in August the volume of gold and currency reserves of Belarus calculated by the IMF standards has increased by 10.2%. On 1stSeptember it amounted to equivalent of USD 4.604 billion. This increase was due to the rising prices of gold (USD 187 million), as well as to USD 300 million Azeri loan.
The NBB has been preparing for the additional session at the currency exchange. Trial trades were held on 8 September. Unofficial reports say the exchange rate reached Br 9,800 per USD. The authorities claim that the main purpose of this trial trading session, which was attended by all Belarusian banks, was to introduce bank traders to the trading algorithm, rather than setting the exchange rates. The supplementary trading session has been scheduled for 14 September.
The National Bank of Belarus is prepared to use the country’s gold reserves in order to prevent speculative fluctuations of the Belarusian ruble exchange rate during the supplementary session. The modest size of the gold reserves and high pent-up demand for foreign currency imply that in a while the NBB will either abandon the supplementary session or conducts formal devaluation, or quickly replenishes gold reserves at the expense of loans or sales of large enterprises.
Vice-Premier Rumas avoided predicting the level of the USD market exchange rate, however said, “We will work hard on the exchange rate to be set by market mechanisms, on the other hand, the exchange rate should be acceptable to the economic players and the population”.
Nevertheless, regardless of the increase of the gold reserves by USD 426 million, its actual volume (without taking into account the Azeri loan and rising gold prices), has decreased by USD 26 million ((300 +187) -426)). The National Bank has undertaken several measures aimed to reduce the ruble money supply and held interviews with representatives of commercial banks. The NBB issued recommendations to large state-owned enterprises to sell foreign currency during the supplementary session with the main goal to reduce the demand and to increase the supply. Earlier the Head of the National Bank of Belarus said that the USD exchange rate will not exceed Br 10,000. Vice-Premier Rumas avoided predicting the level of the USD market exchange rate, however said, “We will work hard on the exchange rate to be set by market mechanisms, on the other hand, the exchange rate should be acceptable to the economic players and the population”. Therefore, in one way or the other the authorities are going to intervene at the BSCE session in order to prevent a sharp rise of the exchange rate. In anticipation of the supplementary session the black market exchange rate last week has declined by about 10%.
Yet Minsk has not decided on the "patriots' case" and is attempting to break new grounds in relations with the West. Meanwhile, Brussels is ready to lower cooperation levels with the Belarusian authorities in anticipation of new political prisoners to appear after the trial against former White Legion activists, irrelevant of the charges, either preparation for riots, or creation of illegal armed groups, or any other. Minsk is unlikely to cross the red line in bilateral relations with the West and new political prisoners are unlikely to appear in Belarus.
The harsh clampdown on protests and arrests this spring in Belarus are unlikely to lead to new moves by the European Union, however, the EU would closely monitor ‘some investigations’, including the ‘patriot’s case’ aka the ‘White Legion’ case.
According to human rights defenders, 17 people remain in custody, of which 16 are former members of the White Legion and one supporter of Statkevich-led the Belarusian National Committee, Sergei Kuntsevich. The law enforcement has been releasing former activists of the White Legion and members of the Patriot Club, most likely in order to mitigate criticism from Western capitals. Amid Minsk Dialogue expert conference with the participation of Belarusian and EU officials, the authorities released from custody head of the Bobruisk "Patriot" Club Nikolai Mikhalkov. In addition, the Belarusian leadership expects to ease some tension by demonstrating greater openness to a dialogue with civil society on human rights issues. For instance, for the first time the Belarusian authorities and human rights defenders held consultations on Belarus’ fifth periodic report to the UN Human Rights Committee.
The Belarusian leadership has attempted to mitigate the West’s attitude towards the criminal prosecution against former activists of the "White Legion" by adding charges of creating an ‘illegal armed formation’ to ‘preparing for mass riots’ charges.
Apparently, Minsk also gains from speculations about possible disagreements among the executives - supporters of stronger ties with Russia, and "pro-Western" reformists lead by Foreign Minister Makei. That said, the Presidential Administration and President Lukashenka have full control over the foreign policy agenda and the law enforcement.
Overall, Minsk is determined to develop relations with Western capitals. The Belarusian authorities are likely to take controversial actions, i.e. to demonstrate the desire for liberalization in some areas and occasionally tighten repressions against the opponents, however without creating new political prisoners.