IMF may approve new loan program for Belarus before end of this year

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) may approve a new loan program for Belarus before the end of this year, Finance Minister Uladzimir Amaryn told reporters in Minsk on Monday.

“We believe there is a chance to reach an agreement with the IMF before the end of the year,” Mr. Amaryn said after introducing the government`s 2017 national budget estimates to the House of Representatives.

Meetings with IMF experts in Minsk last month showed that the positions of the Belarusian government and the IMF are getting closer, Mr. Amaryn said.

According to him, a Belarusian delegation will fly to Washington D.C. on October 4 to continue talks on the loan program.

Belarus seeks to borrow $3 billion from the IMF at an interest rate of some 2.3 percent and for a period of 10 years.

The Belarusian government’s relations with the IMF were discussed at a meeting in Minsk on October 3. The meeting was chaired by Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

The government should not accept the IMF’s recommendations requiring drastic reform, Mr. Lukashenka said.

According to him, the IMF’s recommendations boil down to not increasing pay and to immediately raising the prices of utilities for households.

“Communists would say that the recommendations are aimed at strangling the people,” Mr. Lukashenka noted. “I do not want to say that someone wants to strangle us. Nobody forces us to take this loan [from the IMF], but unfortunately, this is a standard requirement.”

Mr. Lukashenka also said that a draft letter of intent to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde ran counter to his promises to the Belarusian people.

“This letter is humiliating not only for me but it is humiliating for our nation,” he said, according to the government`s news agency BelTA.

Under the IMF rules, a country that wants to receive financial assistance from the organization has to submit a letter of intent in which it would outline specific macroeconomic measures.

The government’s letter of intent to the IMF will have to be amended, Pavel Kallaur, head of the National Bank of Belarus, told reporters after the meeting chaired by the Belarusian leader.

“Undoubtedly, taking into account today’s meeting with the head of state and our consultations in Washington, we will amend the letter with regard to the interests of our state,” Mr. Kallaur said.

“We will send the letter to the IMF if necessary. The exact content of the letter will be approved after consultations at first with senior officers of the International Monetary Fund in Washington and then within our country.”