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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.