Will the Russian economy ever grow again?
On the platform &# 171; Golos On December 6, the voting on the possible disconnection of the banking system of Belarus from the SWIFT system ended. Almost 65% supported this measure, about 17% did not. Disconnection from SWIFT as a measure of influence on the current regime was proposed by the team of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya
Ksenia Turkova: How Painful Disabling SWIFT Can Be for the Banking System of Belarus?
Sergey Aleksashenko: I always give this analogy: it’s about the same as giving up the use of mobile phones. It is possible without mobile phones? – Can. Having a fixed connection, if there is always a communication device at hand. It will be very uncomfortable at first. And then you will get used to it and will be able to live somehow. SWIFT is a system of almost instantaneous exchange of payment messages, payments, payments between banks around the world. But once there was no SWIFT and banks exchanged messages by telex, fax, maybe even by phone. That is, other communication channels are working. And if we are not talking about financial markets, if you are not engaged in foreign exchange trading, buying and selling securities, that is, when you do not need to make decisions with an accuracy of a split second, then, in principle, banks can live with this. But it will be inconvenient: you will have to hire some additional employees, issue payment orders according to other standards, and so on. But it cannot be said that after this there will be a disaster.
K.T .: That is, it cannot become a serious instrument of pressure on the Lukashenka regime.?
S.A. : Disabling SWIFT seems to be such a serious measure against the Lukashenka regime, because we are used to hearing similar threats against Russia: «Oh, Russia is about to be disconnected from SWIFT, what a horror!». If we talk about effective measures that radically change the economic situation, then we need to look at what they did with Iran, against which very tough economic sanctions were applied in 2012-2013. This is the freezing of assets of the Central Bank, this is a ban on the implementation of correspondent settlements with American and European banks – that is, if we talk about Belarus, this is a situation in which Belarusian banks and companies will not be able to carry out settlements in foreign currencies at all. But we must understand that, on the other hand, it will hit some part of the Belarusian population – on the one that has payment cards Visa, Mastercard, American Express, which travels abroad and makes some payments there with its bank cards. Any sanction is double-edged and always hits some part of the population at the same time. Belarusian exporters will have problems receiving money, Belarusian importers will have problems sending money and receiving goods, chaos will ensue in the foreign exchange market if the assets of the National Bank are frozen – in general, it will not seem a little. So, if we talk about what tough sanctions can be, it is the freezing of the accounts and assets of state banks. Then the system of Belarus will feel the strongest pressure. In Iran, this led to the fact that the political regime changed..
K.T .: Could the shutdown of the SWIFT system play against the team of Tikhanovskaya?
S.A .: Of course. I believe that the SWIFT ban will not create critical problems for the Belarusian financial and currency system – therefore, it will be ineffective. And when the ineffectiveness of this measure becomes obvious, both Russian and Belarusian propaganda will begin to laugh at the Western sanctions, at Tikhanovskaya, who proposed it, and so on..
K.T .: What is generally happening to the Belarusian economy amid protracted protests?
S.A .: It seems to me that the Belarusian economy has not yet experienced any particular shocks, because the main protests take place on weekends. The strike movement was not widespread. People are afraid of losing their jobs, going to jail. Until the statistics show serious changes, it cannot be said that the economy of Belarus has been greatly shaken.
K.T .: Could Russia try to gain control over Belarusian enterprises in exchange for debt repayment??
S.A .: Russia may try to do whatever it wants, but for Russia this is not the key problem now. Russia does not set the task of immediate repayment of the debt of Belarus. It seems to me that the main task of Moscow now is to maintain the economic stability of the Lukashenka regime. To do this, you need not demand from him to pay off old debts, but you need to give him new ones. When Russia applied a hard line to Belarus at the beginning of the year, the Belarusian ruble depreciated by more than twenty percent. Therefore, if Russia demands repayment of loans, it will play on the side of the Belarusian opposition. Now, it seems to me, the Kremlin is interested in thinking about how to replace Lukashenka with a figure more acceptable to the Belarusian population and more adequate for negotiations. And then we can already talk about how Russia’s economic interests will be protected under the new political regime..
Lukashenka will not give up any control over Belarusian enterprises now and will not repay any debts today.
K.T .: In what areas is Belarus most dependent on Russia?
S.A .: Over the past twenty years, the Belarusian economy has regularly received subsidies from Russia, which ranged from 8 to 12% of GDP annually. So that you understand the scale – for the Russian economy, this would be from 150 to 200 billion dollars annually. Imagine that you find some kind uncle who annually donates $ 150-200 billion to the Russian budget, Putin, and Minister of Finance Siluanov. And let’s imagine that this money is honestly and evenly distributed throughout the Russian population, goes to raise salaries and pensions, and does not add up to Siluanov’s moneybox. The standard of living in Russia would then be completely different. If we talk about the Belarusian economy, then it all sits on such doping. If this doping is taken away, then the Belarusian economy will change dramatically – this is the greatest dependence. Because after that it will become clear that a significant part of the Belarusian goods that are sold to Russia today are uncompetitive, because their price will rise sharply; or even enterprises will be closed because they will become unprofitable. So, if we talk about what Belarus depends on – it depends on Russian money.
K.T .: How can the EU help Belarus economically?
S.A .: One should not expect that Europe will replace Russia and will provide $ 5-6 billion, that is, the same 10-12% of GDP annually to support the Belarusian economy. If the European Union gives money, it will be several times less. And in any case, an internal change in prices and wages in Belarus will be inevitable. I would advise the opposition to look at the assistance that Ukraine received after the Revolution of Dignity, but only all this assistance should be divided by 4 – then you can understand what kind of help Belarus can count on.
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Journalist, TV and radio host, philologist. She started as a correspondent and presenter on NTV under the leadership of Evgeny Kiselev, worked on TV6, TVS, REN TV, radio stations "Echo of Moscow", "City FM", "Kommersant FM". From 2013 to 2017 she lived and worked in Kiev, participated in the creation of an information radio station "Radio Vesti", directed the Russian-language broadcasting of the Ukrainian channel Hromadske TV, was a host and executive producer. Since 2017 works for "Voice of America" in Washington