National Bank carefully relaxes monetary policy
According to the National Bank’s monitoring in 2012, Belarusian companies were reporting about slowdown in the demand, increased selling prices for products, increased production costs and insufficient circulating capital.
The National Bank’s monitoring showed that industry’s needs in loans had increased. Dramatic reduction of the refinancing rate can result in rapid growth of the economy borrowings in national currency. The National Bank’s ad hoc measures aimed at meeting the enterprises’ demand in crediting, combined with the currency market control, should result in gradual reduction in lending rates.
The National Bank’s monitoring of the real economy sector recorded deterioration of the general economic situation and increased demand in loans from GDP-forming industrial enterprises. In addition, government modernization programmes require significant financial inputs. Conclusion: the current interest rates on loans are unaffordable for enterprises.
However, the refinancing rate cannot be dramatically reduced to meet the enterprises’ needs in financial resources at affordable rates because of the high inflation in early 2013. If market is promptly injected with cheap loans, the result will be a sharp growth in lending in local currency that occurred in mid-2012, when annual interest rate on loans reached 19%. Inflow of cheap loans on the market against the background of the negative international trade situation will entail increased devaluation expectations.
On February 1st the National Bank cancelled the compulsory reservation of funds for the foreign exchange purchase, which enabled banks to free the resources previously frozen in the National Bank. On February 6th, the ban on long-term foreign currency loans not linked with export-import operations was lifted. Enterprises now can take long-term foreign currency loans at relatively low interest rates that currently prevail in the foreign exchange market. On February 6th, the National Bank sent out recommendations to Belarusian banks about how to improve banking operations’ efficiency. One of the recommendations, in fact binding, was to set margin on Belarusian ruble loans within 3 per cent points, aiming at reducing the interest rates on loans in Belarusian rubles.
Thus, the National Bank gradually softens tight monetary policy and simultaneously monitors the behavior of economic agents in the market. Dramatic decline in refinancing rate should not be anticipated, however, there will be gradual reduction in interest rates in the credit market and the affordability of loans for enterprises will be improved.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.