Sberbank loan will help to preserve gold reserves of Belarus after repayment of Eurobonds

April 22, 2016 19:18

Belaruskali has raised EUR 550 million and spent it on Finance Ministry bonds. This transaction was necessary for timely repayment of Eurobonds worth USD 1 billion. As a result, Belarus’ gold reserves have been preserved thereby ensuring stability on the currency market during the election period. 

On July 30th, 2015, Belaruskali announced it had managed to raise a EUR 550 million loan for five years. 

On July 27th and 28th, 2015, the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange listed 156 and 157 bond issues of the Finance Ministry worth EUR 550 million, which were bought by an enterprise residing in Belarus. The interest rate on these bonds with a five years maturity period was 6 months Libor + 6.6%. The only possible buyer of these bonds could be Belaruskali, which has obtained a syndicated loan from the Russian Savings Bank and Sberbank Europe AG for the same amount and on the same terms. 

The new loan is linked with the need to repay the debut issue of five-year bonds issued on August 3rd, 2010. On July 28th, 2015 the Finance Ministry paid the coupon yield and USD 1 billion to repay the debut issue of Eurobonds. USD 760 million state loan from Russia was listed in Russian roubles and therefore could not be used promptly to repay due amounts for Eurobonds. As of July 1st, 2015 Belarus’ gold reserves totalled USD 4.6 billion, and reducing it by USD 1 billion could have a very negative impact on the domestic foreign exchange market and boost currency demand by the population and enterprises. The National Bank has rejected this scenario as highly undesirable. 

Currently, Belarus is unable to raise funding at such interest rates on the international market. It would be equally impossible to raise the needed amount on the domestic market. One of the forms of disguised support for Belarus by Russia is when Russian state banks provide commercial loans to Belarusian state companies. Belarus, in turn, has provided state guarantees for the repayment of problem commercial loans issued to Belarusian industrial giants by Russian BPS-Sberbank. As a result, Belarus’ gold reserves have been preserved at the same level and people’s devaluation expectations have reduced, thus pre-empting negative consequences in the pre-election period. In addition, Russia has increased her share in Belarus’ public debt and demonstrated willingness to provide financial support for Belarus, even amid expansion of sanctions. 

Summing up what has been said, Russia, in a critical moment for Belarus has once again provided financial support in order to preserve stability on the Belarusian currency market and, what is important, not direct support but through Belaruskali. Amid the expansion of sectoral sanctions against Russia, Belarus might be able to receive Russia’s financial assistance in the future, however, its size would be adjusted downwards and would imply conditionality.

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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.