Stabilization loan: slow-motion negotiations continue
The next round of the Belarus-Russia talks on credit and financial cooperation was held on 11 April in Moscow.
During the meeting, the parties have identified measures, which could be implemented within the framework of the mid-term economic policy for Belarus, and also agreed to hold consultations between representatives of the Ministry of Finance and the National Bank of both countries in the Russian Finance Ministry starting on 14 April.
Russia delays the issuance of the stabilization loan to Belarus, forcing the country to accept certain conditions. Namely, unification of economic policies aimed at reducing amounts of subsidies, grants and use of other non-market instruments of economy stimulation, devaluation of the Belarusian ruble and privatization. Obviously, the positions and interests of both countries often differ radically. For instance, the Belarusian National Bank insists on senselessness of devaluation, while Russia considers it justified and offers to discuss it in numbers and speed rate. Belarus wishes to receive an “adequate” price proposal for its assets, while Russia proposes to make non-monetary exchange of shares (an exchange of assets within the holdings). Belarus is not ready to give up on credits and subsidies to state-owned enterprises to maintain high growth rates (which is almost never used in Russia).
At the same time, Russia could not but support the country it created the Union State with. Therefore, in the near future (April-May), Belarus will receive a $ 1 billion loan, while another $ 2 billion of stabilization loan in the framework of EurAsEC will be torpedoed by Russia.
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.