EFSD loan is unlikely to solve Belarus problem with international reserves
If Belarus signs a loan agreement with the Eurasia Foundation for Stabilisation and Development in 2016, she may count on USD 1.1 billion. Since June 2014, Belarus repays USD 88.3 million quarterly to the EFSD for the USD 2.56 billion loan. A new loan is unlikely to lead to an increase in gold reserves, as the funds will be fully used to refinance liabilities to Russia in 2016.
According to the Belarusian Finance Minister, in the next two weeks an agreement on the allocation of a USD 2 billion loan may be reached between Belarus and Eurasia Foundation for Stabilization and Development (EFSD). The first tranche of USD 1.1 billion would be allocated in 2016, and the remaining amount - in three tranches in 2017. The stated purpose of the loan is to replenish Belarus’ gold reserves. In addition, Belarus aspires to attract foreign borrowings through placing Eurobonds on foreign markets with a total worth of USD 1.0-1.5 billion. Loan talks with the IMF have been postponed until April 2016.
Belarus has already applied for a loan to this fund, formerly known as the Anti-Crisis Fund of the EurAsEC. In 2011, Belarus was granted a USD 3 billion stabilization loan in order to maintain the balance of payments. Due to Belarus’ failure to comply with the loans’ key requirements, the last tranche of USD 440 million has never been disbursed. Since June 2014, Belarus has been making quarterly payments of USD 88.3 million in order to service the loan.
If the loans is allocated, Belarus’ gold reserves will not increase. In 2016, she will have to repay USD 353.2 million to the EFSD for the previous loan. According to the Belarusian Finance Ministry, Belarus’ total obligations in 2016 for interstate loans, including the EFSD loan, make circa USD 1.1 billion. The entire amount the loan, therefore, with be returned to Russia by the year-end. The total amount of Belarus’ public debt payments in 2016 are estimated at USD 3.2 billion. The export duty on oil products by the year-end may earn only circa USD 700-800 million for the state budget. In this regard, Belarus is likely to take advantage of the existing window of opportunity on the international financial market and place foreign currency bonds. Current quotes for Belarusian Eurobonds maturing in 2018 amount to 103% of the nominal value, which means, Belarus may count on placing the new issue of bonds at 6-6.5% per annum. The loan agreement with the IMF, if it is signed, would bring another USD 1 billion to Belarus before the end of 2016. Belarus therefore will be forced to seek additional funds on foreign markets, or borrow on the domestic market, since the guaranteed financial inflow is not enough to service her public debt in 2016.
The EFSD loan agreement will help Belarus to refinance her debt to Russia in 2016, and will not lead to an increase in gold reserves. In order to fulfil her public debt obligations, Belarus still needs to raise circa USD 1.5 billion in 2016 on foreign or domestic markets.
Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.