Household savings in Belarus continue to shrink
According to the National Bank, in September 2016, the volume of foreign currency deposits in the Belarusian banking system decreased by USD 49.2 million to USD 7.59 billion. These funds were redirected to the foreign exchange market - in January - September 2016, the population sold USD 1.4 billion foreign currency on a net basis. Household savings are likely to continue to reduce as the heating season starts and utility costs go up. In addition, the share of foodstuffs has increased in the consumer basket. Amid the lack of positive developments in the economy, households may start reducing their consumer spending, leading to a sharp decline in sales of high-value goods, automobiles, and real estate.
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.