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 have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.