Savings are more profitable than commercial activity
Interbank market credits rates hold steadily at 60%. Sales cost-effectiveness in the economy fell to 9% in August 2012. Profitability from BYR savings accounts exceeds profitability from many types of commercial activity. Long-term conservation of this situation would affect business activity. This imbalance bears high risks for the banking system stability and encourages banks to devalue the national currency.
Last week the banks raised interest rates on savings accounts, both for individuals and for businesses.
Most banks increased interest rates on ruble deposits by 5-10 % last week. Interest rates on BYR savings accounts for the population reached 49% per annum. For legal persons, short-term BYR deposits (10 days) were available at 50% and higher. Individual clients were offered special deposit terms for their free cash.
Simultaneously, the return on sales in the economy fell from 11% in July 2012 to 9% in August. 90.4% of the enterprises remain profitable, of which 40.5% have profitability margin 0% to 5%.
However, placing deposits and business production or trading activity are incomparable in terms of risks and costs. Production or trade requires numerous employees, office and warehouse premises, accounting, etc. Placing deposits and receiving profit from interest rates involves minimal costs and better guaranteed results, if national currency devaluation pace does not increase. There were no bankruptcies among Belarusian banks for a while. And the absence of checks by tax and other controlling authorities implies a guaranteed outcome when placing money on deposit.
Thus, with these interest rates, business activity in Belarus only makes sense for a small number of highly profitable enterprises. These include, for instance, potash production and sales, pipeline transport, and some other. In other cases, bigger profits can be made without any activity by placing funds on savings accounts. These rates in the credit market drag liquidity away from the currency market, but economic activity becomes unreasonable.
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.