20 April 2021, Tuesday, 7:30
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Entrepreneur: There Will Soon Be Half a Pie Left in the Fridge of Belarusians - and Then People Will Wait in the Wings

Entrepreneur: There Will Soon Be Half a Pie Left in the Fridge of Belarusians - and Then People Will Wait in the Wings
Photo: AFP

Not hundreds of thousands will take to the streets but millions.

The National Bank of Belarus has introduced restrictions on withdrawing money from an ATM. Cash-out operations for amounts over 5800 rubles within a week will now be considered suspicious. Charter97.org spoke with a blogger and entrepreneur from Barysau Viktar Harbachou about the financial situation in Belarus.

- Why did the authorities get nervous and took such measures?

- The country is in deep trouble, both economically and politically. We see an attempt to hold on to own chair. This leads to the collapse of both the economy and politics. There is no justice and legislation, the law enforcement system is completely absent. A chain reaction is taking place here, all this hits the pocket of the people. People take bank deposits, the dollar rate is growing, warehouses are full, wages are not growing, individual entrepreneurs are trying to take business out of the country - all this affects the situation.

Today we are seeing how the authorities are trying to keep money under control. Previously, it was possible to cash out 500 base units, now 200. In addition, the government is trying to restrict the movement of finance both in the country and abroad. I don't think it will succeed. This is a common mess on their part because the population no longer has the money that was previously withdrawn. Whoever wanted to withdraw, transfer, buy something, or keep the stash in a black stocking did so.

Such restrictions are an attempt to show that the authorities are working, that they hold the banking system in their hands, but this will not lead to anything good. This will aggravate the situation on the black market. Finance movements will be organized in a very different way. Our population, if it wants to withdraw, put, and transfer something, it does by its own methods, non-standard. We will not talk about them, but there are a lot of ways to get around them, and everyone knows about them.

- To what extent are you and your friends outraged by another attempt by the authorities to look into your pocket and establish their own "order" there? Will such orders increase people's discontent?

– For 25 years, everything was going to reveal the true face of this power. It was already being revealed, but when the majority came out on August 9 in the square, hundreds of thousands of people united to change this bacchanal. Every day, the regime creates new decrees and regulations to slow down the process of collapse. There is a disaster in the country. By any means, the government washes money from the population. For example, the rise in prices for housing and communal services. They said that the increase will be $ 5 within a year, a month passes, and the increase is already $ 10-15. Gasoline prices have already been raised eight times, business taxes are increasing, and rents in the regions are growing. The people have money only for food and pay for utilities. This is an economic bacchanal.

- In your opinion, what is fraught with the withdrawal of foreign currency deposits by citizens from the banking system? How effective can an economic protest according to the ATM-exchanger-bank scheme be?

- It is clear that the authorities need currency, no matter how they say that the ruble is strong and so on, but it is still necessary to carry out payments for goods and products, for example, with other countries. For them, this is a huge blow because loans and interest on them must be repaid. Usually, loans were taken from Russia, or money was withdrawn from the pockets of people, and they did not even know about it. There is money in the bank, the interest is dripping, and when the population withdraws the money, the authorities sit and think: "And what do we pay with now?" Therefore, one can simply expect the freezing of foreign currency deposits for a year or two until the economic situation in the country is "settled."

I have enough acquaintances who once invested there, said that it was okay, let it "drip" at 3 percent. Today, out of 10 of my friends, 8 have already withdrawn their foreign currency deposits. Now they are happy that they managed to withdraw, transfer, and invest somewhere, and those two who still believe will join the ranks of those whose investments will burn out soon.

- Will restrictive measures to withdraw money from accounts help the authorities? Or will the regime be unable to restore the financial cushion?

- No, of course, the pillows will definitely not be restored. Hope only for a loan from Russia or comrades from Asia. The situation that was a year or two ago cannot be returned because the outflow is clearly noticeable. All these restrictions will not lead to anything like that. Who needs it, has already taken out the money, and someone took the money from the bank and hid it in a two-liter jar.

In all regional cities, we observe that rented premises begin to empty massively because entrepreneurs are closing. Following this, there are no revenues to the country's budget, and all the money that the authorities would like to receive went abroad. Someone went to Ukraine, and someone went to Poland or Lithuania. Look at the trains and planes that travel and fly to Russia every day. There are no tickets for a month in advance, everything is bought up. The reasons? They run, and money is running away with people, so the authorities are trying to stop it. Therefore, all these restrictions, price adjustments are leading our country to destruction and economic disaster. By the New Year, we will not just see it but we will feel it with our pockets. Not three pies will remain in the refrigerator, but half a pie. Hundreds of thousands came out, and now millions will come out when they open the refrigerator, and it’s empty, because the people will ask where the food is, and the authorities will answer that the police and the courts have taken it. I said it humorously, but it will be so.

- The gold reserves of Belarus continue to decline; only in March, they fell below the psychological line of $ 7 billion. Why have the regime's gold reserves been melting at an accelerated rate over the past three months?

- You don't have to be a great economist to understand that the situation is different now - there are no foreign exchange earnings, the desire to buy Belarusian products is less, there are no new loans either, and the old ones must be given back. The authorities think that we will take it now, and we will return it with the help of restrictions, cuts, and penalties in six months. The gold and foreign exchange reserves are reduced monthly by at least 100 million and, unfortunately, the government will not stop and will continue because we have to give almost 6 billion dollars this year. All this is included in the gold and foreign exchange reserve. Do you have to give it back? You do. Do you have to stay in power? You do. So, you grab the stash, but it continues to decrease. It is a normal situation under a dictatorship to get your hands on gold and foreign exchange reserves. With one hand, he takes it out, and with the other, he wants to fill it up, and he begins to strangle the population.

I would like to say about the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the square after August 9th. They have not gone anywhere, they are beaten, arrested, forced to remove flags from the windows, but there are even more people against the regime. These people began to hate the authorities more and more. The salaries were still in black envelopes. Individual entrepreneurs close their jobs and go into black business. We are now returning to the 1990s. Where, who, how eats and earns - they don't say anything, but they seem to have some money. Maybe it was earned in Russia, maybe in Lithuania or Ukraine, so the authorities are trying to take control, but nothing happens. Everything is heading towards economic collapse. The people are divided into two parts. The smaller part is trying to prove that it is the mistress of life here, while the larger part has gone underground for now, but it will definitely “shoot.” Moreover, it will demand justice, which has not been there for 26 years.

- Since the beginning of 2021, the state debt of Belarus has grown by 1.7 billion rubles. Nobody gives credits to Cockroach anymore. What can this lead to? Does default threaten the usurper?

- The debt will continue to increase. Is there a threat of default? Probably yes. A default is possible, and it will not affect Lukashenka, Kachanava, and others, but the population.

My grandparents - they all once lost money on government bonds and investments. I myself lost money, 21 thousand rubles in the Soviet Union. This is crazy money. At one time, I served in Mongolia for 5 years, returned, but they did not give me a dime. These zeroes, defaults, devaluations gobbled up everything. The people's distrust of banking systems leads to the fact that Belarusians put money in these jars.

The authorities are trying to convince us that everything will be fine with us, but it cannot be so under the system that was like 70 years ago. This is the same power, only in different suits, with different clocks and machines. They robbed then, rob today, and are going to rob further. I believe that the national debt will continue to grow. If this power remains, then there will definitely be a default, a revision of the monetary system. All restrictions are an attempt to keep the default, but they will not be able to do this.

People who have come out to the square are waiting - what, where, and when. The authorities know this. Every day they show some trips of officials, this show that we are the authorities, do not be afraid of anything, keep working. Why keep working? There are layoffs, wage cuts, and price increases. Kids say: “Why do I need this?”, and then get on a plane and fly out of this country. Only the judges will remain at this rate. There is a proverb: whoever is the last to leave this country, do not forget to turn off the light at the airport.

When I started the political struggle against this regime in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I told entrepreneurs that this regime leads to liquidations and corruption, but people did not believe and laughed. Now tens of thousands of people come to my place, who also speak and try to convince people.

Today there is a confrontation, seemingly peace, but there is a civil war in the country. When unknown people burst into your apartment, when in court the witness Ivan Ivanov in a balaclava says that he saw you waving your hands - this is all a civil war. If the authorities do not allow to live in peace, then wait, steam will come out of the boiler. When? This is another question.

The Belarusian security forces are trying to pose as "black colonels," but today people laugh at their anecdotes that they tell on TV. Nobody believes it anymore. If earlier I came to the village, and people told me: “Have you heard that there is an opposition trying to poison Minsk, launching rats, but they were caught?" Today you come to the same village, where 50 people lived 15 years ago, and now there are 10 people; grandma watches TV and tells me how Lukashenka makes a fool of everyone on TV. Everything has changed: the people is smart, cunning, and patient. It is waiting in the wings and will get it. Yes, it takes long, we would like it to be faster, but good does not happen quickly.