18 January 2018, Thursday, 4:38

Forsal: Minsk tells tall tales to IMF


Poland is sure the Belarusian authorities have little chance of getting a loan from the IMF.

Though all previous privatisation campaigns failed, Minsk continues to make new attempts. Belarusians don't trust the authorities any more and sell unstable Belarusian rubles, Polish economic website Forsal.pl reports.

In its efforts to receive western money Belarus resumes the old rhetoric counting on acceleration of privatisation. Minsk races against time while people fear a new devaluation of the national currency.

The more the authorities assure that no devaluation is possible, the less ordinary Belarusians believe them. People exchange rubles for dollars and euros. The proportion of foreign currency deposits of individuals rose from 62% to 66% from July 1 to October 1. Belarusians bought foreign currency worth 320 million dollars only in September. The fall of the national currency affects its stability. The Belarusian ruble has never been so weak.

One dollar costs 9,170 rubles now, which is 7% more than at the beginning of the year. It's a slight growth, but economists say it resembles the situation two years ago, when attempts to delay the devaluation led to imbalance in the currency market and a rush to currency exchange offices. The government had to adjust the exchange rate increasing it daily from 5,712 to 8,680 rubles per dollar. Even the pro-governmental newspaper Respublika remembers it however laying the blame on the problems with the US federal budget.

In this situation Minsk begins to apply for foreign aid that supposes receiving a loan from Russia-controlled Anti-Crisis Fund of the Eurasian Economic Community (ACF) or from the International Monetary Fund. The first variant is easier, but it will doom Minsk to further dependence on the Kremlin. The second variant implies carrying out real reforms. Delegations of both organisations are expected to visit the Belarusian capital by the end of the month. Belarus counts more on the IMF loan. Minsk already cooperated with this organisation. Belarus received 3.5bn dollars in 2009-2010 from this source and simplified customs procedures, reduced taxes and simplified company registration procedures.

Some promises can be heard now. Deputy minister of economy Dzmitry Halukhou, who belongs to a group of young educated technocrates, spoke about changes in priorities of state-owned companies from quantity to quality of production. It would be a revolution, because the country's industrial giants still work by the Soviet rule “the more. the better”.

In other words, two new refrigerators with defects cost more than one fridge that works well. The Belarusian authorities published a list of 85 companies ready for privatisation. Among them are the Mozyr oil refinery and the BATE plant, the owner of the same-named football club. However, all previous privatisation campaigns failed due to lack of western investments.