Belarus hardens stance on economic reforms before IMF visit

By bne IntelliNews November 4, 2015

A mission of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will visit Belarus on November 9-19 for negotiations towards a crucial new $3.5bn loan for the republic as it reels from the knock-on effects of the recession in Russia.

The visit, confirmed by the IMF office in Minsk on November 4, comes amid growing  reluctance of the Belarusian authorities to commit to badly needed structural economic reforms. This in turn threatens to undermine cooperation with the IMF.

Kirill Rudy, a senior economic aide to the recently re-elected President Alexander Lukashenko, said on November 3 that economic reforms in Belarus have few prospects in the near future due to a lack of public support for them, "apart from the demands of a small number of specialists".

On October 20, six days after he won a further five years in power, Lukashenko also rejected a course of unpopular economic reforms.

"Some say there is a credit of trust and that it is necessary to go ahead with unpopular measures fast," said the former state farm director who has ruled the former Soviet republic since 1994. "In other words, it is necessary to cut things up, and when you are the president, you [should] go ahead and do it. I am not going to cut anything or anyone," Lukashenko's media office quoted him as saying. 

Meanwhile, the IMF has repeatedly urged Belarus to demonstrate "strong commitment at the highest level" to a comprehensive package of deep structural reforms and consistent macroeconomic policies.

Lukashenko met with IMF head Christine Lagarde in New York in September to discuss prospects for a new credit programme. According to the IMF press service, Lagarde emphasised that "a more comprehensive reorientation of policies, consistently supported at the highest level [in Belarus], is needed".

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