National Bank triggers deposit outflow from banks
On December 1 2013, the population lowered volumes of term foreign currency deposits in the banking system for the first time this year. The National Bank has taken relatively risky measures to reduce BYR deposit rates in the banking system. Such actions can result in a very quick response from the public who may withdraw both BYR and foreign currency deposits, also in light of the apparent lack of income of foreign loans and cause problems on the foreign exchange market.
In November, the population split into two groups regarding savings. The first group kept its savings in ruble deposits at 50-55% per annum. The second group converted rubles into foreign currency and kept its savings at home. The second group bought $156.4m net, and did not make any deposits in the banking system.
In December, the National Bank implemented some measures which might have a significant impact on the banking system and people’s savings. The NB put restrictions on corporate and private foreign currency loans. Meanwhile, interest rates on private ruble deposits were reduced to 45% per annum. Restrictions on consumer loans were also introduced.
These measures might lead to mass outflow of cash from the banks. Simultaneously, the demand for foreign currency might increase considerably. In addition, in December 2013 Belarus has to repay circa $1bln in foreign and domestic debt. Therefore, by the year-end the National Bank might be on the precipice of seeing its gold reserves reduce dramatically..
Thus, the National Bank’s actions aiming at regulating interest rates in banking are rather risky. If people’s reaction to reduced saving proceeds slips out of control, the National Bank might introduce restrictions on foreign currency purchases on the domestic market.
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.