National Bank’s discount rate reduced
The National Bank of Belarus reduced the discount rate to 38% per annum from 43% per annum on 1 March 2012.
This is good news for borrowers, as the existing rates are in effect prohibitive. At the same time, interest rates on loans are not reduced as fast and on average constitute 50-55% per annum. At the same time, gradual and substantial reduction of the discount rate threatens the stability of the banking system and the foreign exchange market: there is danger that the population of the country will start withdrawing money from ruble deposits (interest rate is linked to the discount rate) and exchange into foreign currency (at the moment the population only sells foreign currency).
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.