National Bank is likely to continue to lose international reserves without large loan from Russia
In January 2016, Belarus’ gold reserves shrunk by USD 149 million to USD 4.0268 billion, despite the fact that the National Bank had managed to raise additional USD 1 billion on the domestic market through bonds issue for legal entities. Belarus’ foreign trade deficit is still very high. In the next two months, the government will require an additional USD 1 billion to refinance its domestic and foreign debt. Without a loan from Russia, Belarus’ gold reserves will continue to dwindle. Prices on imported goods will go up and the national currency will continue to depreciate. The population will continue to exert pressure on the foreign exchange market by converting rouble deposits into foreign currency. Even if Belarus manages to agree on the IMF loan, it will be allocated in tranches of USD 750 million each with the first one arriving not earlier than April-May 2016.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.