National Bank holds on to national currency deposits
The National Bank Chairman reported ruble deposits and certificates of the largest Belarusian banks stating growth of up to 35% per annum.
The National Bank rapidly responded to the outflow of ruble deposits. It has adopted decisions that have already resulted in a substantial increase in interest rates on deposits in national currency. These measures aim at suspending the outflow of ruble deposits from the banking system, but will virtually suspend lending in the real economy sector.
On July 12th, data on money supply was published. For the first time in 2013, in late June, the amount of term ruble deposits in the banking system decreased relative to the values in early June. Term ruble deposits reduced to BYR 71.9 billion. In the first ten days of July, the population withdrew over BYR 1 trillion deposits from the banking system. This has resulted in a significant reduction of excess liquidity in the banking system. Rates in the interbank market increased from 21.7% pa in early July to 26.8% pa, as of July 11th, 2013.
In this situation, the National Bank took rapid action to prevent the outflow of the population’s resources from the banking system. It was decided to raise the reserve requirements on foreign currency funds by two percentage points (from 12% to 14%). This provision will mean that required reserves will need to be additionally replenished. In addition, this will reduce the ruble liquidity in the banking system by more than 1 trillion BYR. As a consequence, the interest rates of currency and ruble deposits will increase and loan interest rates will reduce. On July 12th, two banks, Belarusbank and Belagroprombank, advertized term ruble deposits (1-2 months) at 31-35% per annum.
This measure aimed to bring ruble deposits back into the banking system. Growth in ruble deposits was stimulated by high rates. The growth in rates is supposed to increase the yield on deposits, to reach the early 2013 level. Otherwise a deficit in ruble liquidity will occur in the banking system, which will result in higher interest rates, and lower lending in the real economy. The population, in turn, receives a short-term opportunity to have high proceeds from term ruble deposits. The National Bank believes that this will outweigh the population’s expectations of devaluation.
This means that opportunities for low-cost business loans during the next 2-3 months will be closed, repeating the 2012 situation on a smaller scale. The population is still highly sensitive to devaluation after the 2011 crisis, and, at the slightest threat, will react by rapidly by withdrawing rubles and placing their savings more in secure currency deposits.
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.