No possibilities to refinance the IMF loan, hopes for EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund
An IMF mission will be working in Minsk from 18 October until October 2012 to conduct the third post-program monitoring.
In 2013, Belarus will have to repay about USD 2.9 billion in foreign debt settlement. Major repayment will be addressed to the IMF. This debt is not subject to refinancing, while according to IMF estimations, the current account balance in 2013 will not allow Belarus to refinance it independently.
On October 9-13, the Belarusian delegation participated in the annual session of the Council of the Executives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. After the meeting, the Ministry of Economy announced that cooperation with IMF would only be limited to consulting on technical support for Belarus. No new loan program is planned.
According to IMF forecasts for 2013, Belarus’ current account balance will be negative and will account for 5.8% of the GDP. In this situation, Belarus will not manage to independently refinance a debt of USD 2.9 billion.
Belarus has made efforts to refinance the foreign debt through borrowing from the domestic market. The first transaction on Belarus foreign currency bonds amounting to USD 100 million was carried out by Bank BelVEB. On October 17, it announced that it invites egal entities to invest in foreign currency bonds for a period of 3,5 years in the amount of USD 150 million. The potential investors can offer their own rates and the Ministry of Finance will choose the most competitive offer. In these conditions, the remaining tranches of the loan from EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund are the largest and most likely resources to refinance the existing debt.
However, obligation of the Belarusian side stated in the letter of intent will not be performed to the full. Most crucially, it needs to fulfill an obligation to sell state assets of USD 2.5 billion by the end of 2012. Currently, there is no single realistic transaction which would account for fulfilling this obligation. In this regard, allocation of new tranches of the loan is not evident and will most likely be postponed, since growth of pressure in the foreign exchange market will force Belarus to take a more active stance in negotiations on certain assets.
Thus, in the situation when the Belarusian authorities have limited external foreign currency earnings and are pressed to repay foreign debt, they will have to make concessions regarding terms and conditions for privatization of state-owned property by Russian investors. Otherwise, the tranches of the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund loan will be postponed for an uncertain term.
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.