New rules on Belarusian deposit market will reduce people’s interest in bank deposits

April 22, 2016 19:36

Decree No 7 of November 11th, 2015, has introduced irrevocable deposits, early termination of which would be impossible without the bank’s agreement. This regulation is in line with the National Bank’s policy envisaging forming long-term resource base of banks. In addition, as of April 1st, 2016, the population will need to pay an income tax on most common household deposits. These measures may lead to withdrawal of funds from the banks by the population and paralysis of the banking system.

On November 12th, the classification of bank deposits in Belarus changed – envisaging only revocable and irrevocable deposits. Irrevocable deposits would not allow early termination of the deposit agreement without the bank’s consent. In addition, as of April 1st, 2016, yield from national currency deposits with maturity period under one year and from foreign currency deposits with maturity period under two years will be liable for income tax of 13%. The tax payments will be made by banks after the accrual of the interest income.

These measures are in line with the National Bank’s policy envisaging forming of long-term resource base. As of July 2015, payments to the fund of obligatory reserves for ruble deposits of individuals and legal entities were equalized, which increased the cost of banks borrowing from the population. In addition, the National Bank has been implementing a policy of gradual reduction of interest rates on borrowed resources. These measures have led to a partial outflow of speculative capital from ruble deposits. The volume of term rouble deposits has been reducing for five consecutive months, totaling BYR 6.5 trillion (18.5% of their volume) on June 1st, 2015.

The new regulations will reshape the deposit market. In September 2015 more than 73% of the new ruble deposits have been placed for a period of up to one year. The upper margin for interest rates on revocable deposits in national currency is projected at 25% per annum. This interest rate is not very attractive for most depositors. After April 1st, 2016 their yield will be reduced by the income tax volume, which is likely to provoke a further outflow of national currency deposits.

The banks are not afraid to lose rouble liquidity and the National Bank has been consistently getting rid of depositors who are not ready for long-term deposits. The National Bank is mainly worried about the negative reaction from owners of currency deposits. The volume of term deposits in foreign currency of the population is USD 7.8 billion, which is 1.7 times more than Belarus’ gold reserves. If a part of depositors decides to close their accounts in banks, the banks will be unable to return deposits, the banking system will be paralyzed, additional restrictions on deposits will be introduced, leading to a panic on the currency market.

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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.