28 July 2021, Wednesday, 13:58
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Ex-Head of the National Bank of Belarus: There’s Way to Overthrow This Fascist Power

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Ex-Head of the National Bank of Belarus: There’s Way to Overthrow This Fascist Power

It is enough to stop the plants.

On June 10, the European Parliament approved a resolution on Belarusю It deals not only with economic sanctions but also with the disconnection of banks from the SWIFT system. Charter97.org discussed it with the former head of the National Bank of Belarus Stanislau Bahdankevich.

- How strong will be the blow to the regime and the financial system if SWIFT is disconnected?

- It will not be fatal. The fact is that banks used to pay without SWIFT. However, bank operations were just slower. They took days, weeks, but SWIFT reduced this time to minutes. It would go back in time. However, it would be an exaggeration to say that it could bring the whole economy to a halt. I mean, settlements between banks can also be carried by car in the form of papers. It's impossible to stop the economy. However, it will undoubtedly worsen its functioning. After all, it's the 21st century. It will be painful for the economy. However, one can't say that the regime will fall because of it.

This totalitarian and fascist regime can only be overthrown by one's own forces. It was enough to stop the plants and factories, to go on nation-wide strike, but it only depends on the Belarusian people, not on the USA, Germany, or someone else. We only have to blame ourselves.

- How exactly will disconnection from SWIFT put the brakes on the Belarusian economy?

- There will be a recession and reduction in gross domestic product for a while, but the other sanctions also work in this regard. For example, if the EU stops buying our products, we can switch to Vietnam, Indonesia, China, but it requires effort, time and will incur significant costs. As a result, we will lag behind in terms of the standard of living, and we are already in the last places in Europe. We will be 2-3 percentage points lower again. However, it will not solve our problems; the Belarusian people can make a difference only if they go on strike.

- It's been reported that the Payoneer payment system has stopped withdrawing money to the cards of Belarusian banks because they are on the sanctions list. How harmful for the banks is the refusal of international payment systems to cooperate with them?

- It worsens the economic situation, living standards in Belarus but, unfortunately, does not automatically cause regime change. Regime change depends on the will of the Belarusian people, not the external forces that complicate payments between economic entities, slow down the flow of funds for sold products, etc. Yes, it all makes the situation worse. We have been talking about it for years when relations with the civilized world complicate. We are two and a half times behind Lithuania in salaries. Lithuania, with less than 3 million people, has 60 billion dollars of gross product. Belarus also has 60 billion, but with 9 million people. These lags occur due to the manual control of the economy by the authoritarian regime. Moreover, the personnel are not the most professional in power.

Taken together, it leads to a gap in gross product, average wages, and pensions. We are literally behind everyone else. The most backward countries in Europe have caught up with us. Ukraine has caught up with Belarus in terms of wages, although it lagged behind us. As for the level of the minimum wage, we are at the bottom of the European list. We're already below Albania and Ukraine, and these sanctions will make the situation even worse. Unfortunately, the situation in Belarus will not improve without the uprising.

- What happens to the national currency in the case of such sanctions against the financial system?

- A lot of factors affect the national currency, including sanctions. I looked at the trading statistics at the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange. The turnover in dollars dropped, but increased in rubles, i.e. the stability of the dollar and even its certain fall in value is associated with reduced trade with Europe, but increased one with Russia. It is generally not profitable for us. This is a paradox. Why does the ruble not devalue? Turnover is going down in the stock market; demand for the dollar in the economy is going down. Trade relations with Russia and the East, in general, have to increase because of the relation deterioration with Europe. Such an unprofitable paradox, but one can't stop fighting a dictator because of that. We must continue the fight for democracy.

Our political and economic crisis can be solved through elections. Is it a big deal? To hold new elections with a normal count of the votes, to reinstate the media, to admit worthy candidates to the election. It will solve the problems then. I am watching the conversation between Biden and Putin about Belarus. How to solve the problem in Belarus? To hold fair elections! Under control of Russia and the United States because there is no trust in the authorities conducting elections in Belarus. Our problems can be solved when we have a legitimate government that abolishes these draconian laws that are repressive towards the Belarusian people. Our Constitution is violated as well. It says we can go to peaceful demonstrations. However, another law says it requires a permit issued by the authorities.

I have recently read information by a leader of the United Civic Party about the conditions in prison. These are savage and fascist conditions for the Belarusians, who spend behind bars 15-30 days. It is real fascism. How to solve this problem? To hold elections and elect a new civilized government.

Economic sanctions worsen the situation and encourage people to turn into the citizens of Belarus, who solve the problems of their own state.

- What should Belarusians do to bring victory closer?

- Hold a nationwide strike. Belarusians need to mature for this. Yes, they may have to temporarily lower their living standards, and people won't receive their wages. So what? There are potatoes, land plots; one can survive. Everything will be fine in a month; we will gradually overtake Poland, Lithuania, the Baltic States and will become Switzerland in the middle of Europe. However, we have to sacrifice something temporarily for that.