Statements of Deputy Head of the Government of the Russian Federation – Finance Minister of the Russian Federation A. Kudrin
Belarus loan to be granted on condition of 3-year privatization program approval - Kudrin
MINSK. May 20 (Interfax) - The approval of a three-year privatization program will be a condition for granting a three-year $3 billion loan to Belarus, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said.
"Belarus has sufficient assets to complement the credit program with the necessary amount of currency resources which can be received over the next two or three years so as to ensure maximum stabilization of both its economy and currency system … Our condition is that certain privatization must be carried out over a three-year period," Kudrin told journalists on Thursday.
The three-year privatization of Belarusian public assets should be at least $7.5-9 billion. "If the sale of assets fails to reach this figure, then they will have to ask the IMF, which has other difficulties related to the tough criteria of the structural reform programs," Kudrin said.
This is why Belarus has to choose whether to sell its assets, of which it has enough, or to agree to the IMF terms, he said.
The final decision on the Belarusian privatization program, and therefore the loan decision, is due to be made by the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund on June 4, Kudrin said.
The government stake in Beltransgaz is among the assets of which privatization is currently being negotiated, he said.
If approved, the lending rate for Belarus will be no less than the weighted-average borrowing rate for Russia and Kazakhstan, Kudrin said.
MICEX can start trading in EurAsEC national currencies - Kudrin
MINSK. May 19 (Interfax) - Russia has told other members of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) that the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX) is ready to organize trading in their national currencies, said Alexei Kudrin, Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
"We have informed that the MICEX is ready to organize trading in the national currencies of the EurAsEC member states," Kudrin said at a EurAsEC Inter-State Council session.
The national banks of Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have notified their commercial banks about the possibility of participating in direct quotations through a MICEX section, he said. "Currently, we have such an agreement with Kazakhstan in the final stage," Kudrin said.
The question of organizing direct quotations for the EurAsEC states' national currencies is one of the anti-crisis measures taken by the organization, he said. "Three points of the program are at the stage of implementation. This is primarily the preparation of proposals to provide direct quotation for exchange between the national currencies of the EurAsEC member states," Kudrin added. The national banks of Belarus and Tajikistan have already informed other parties that due to the high demand for the Russian currency they are using their national currencies in direct quotations, he also said.
Russia to formulate final position on Belarus loan at Putin-Lukashenko meeting - Kudrin
MINSK. May 19 (Interfax) - Russia's final position on granting a EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund loan for Belarus will be formulated at a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk on Thursday evening, said Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin.
"Tonight Vladimir Putin will also have meetings with the Belarusian president and prime minister. There they will put a full stop in regard to the Russian position on the EurAsEC loan for Belarus," Kudrin told journalists in Minsk.
Kazakhstan, which will also participate in lending to Belarus through the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund, has yet to determine its position, he said.
"Currently, Belarus has economic difficulties caused by the large deficit in its balance of payments," he said.
Belarus needs to take "additional measures to boost its export revenues and investment to the republic," he said.
"It seems to me, the Belarusian government is assessing the situation adequately, it has planned a number of measures which are already in place and which, I think, have already improved the situation," Kudrin said.
Such measures include a loan from the EurAsEC, the deputy prime minister said. "Today we already had contacts on this matter with the Belarusian finance minister and agreed upon all the aspects required for putting this matter forward at a meeting of the EurAsEC finance ministers," Kudrin added.
Russia to consult BRIC members over IMF chief candidate - Kudrin
MINSK. May 19 (Interfax) - While Russia has backed Grigory Marchenko, the head of the National Bank of Kazakhstan, as a candidate for the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), it will be holding consultations on the final candidature with other BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) members, said Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin.
"I value him [Grigory Marchenko] very highly. He is an international-level specialist, and it is a good candidature. But in the course of the election, at its final stage, all IMF countries will have to agree on one candidate. I believe that for a start position Marchenko's participation is positive," Kudrin told journalists.
Russia will hold consultations with the BRIC countries on this matter, he said. Emerging markets are expected to nominate other candidates, Kudrin said.
"I know that already there are candidates from the BRIC countries. We will also be weighing them," he added.
Russia presses Belarus to sell assets as ruble slides
MINSK (Reuters) - Russia urged Belarus on Thursday to sell off state assets in order to secure a credit lifeline from a Moscow-led bailout fund as a currency crisis deepened in the former Soviet republic.
Belarus could raise $7.5 billion to $9.0 billion from privatisation in the next two to three years to supplement a proposed $3.5 billion bailout loan, Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said.
"I think Belarus has enough assets to complement the lending programme with necessary foreign currency resources that can be obtained in the next two to three years to stabilize the economy," Kudrin told reporters.
Moscow itself could buy Beltransgas, Belarus' gas pipeline network operator, which tranships Russian gas to Europe, said Kudrin, who visited Minsk with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The Belarussian ruble continued a downward spiral, weakening to 8,000/9,000 against the dollar in thin trading on the interbank market, from 7,100/7,600 on Wednesday, market sources told Reuters.
Market players were awaiting the outcome of a meeting between Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko with speculation that the Russian leader might disclose more details of a Moscow-backed aid package.
Putin had talks with Lukashenko on Thursday night after a meeting of heads of governments of EurAsEC, a regional economic grouping established by some ex-Soviet republics.
But officials said the two leaders would not talk to the press after the meeting, which took place behind closed doors.
Talks are under way with Belarus over a potential $3.0 billion to $3.5 billion loan over three years from an anti-crisis fund run by EurAsEC. Kudrin said the final decision on the loan could be made on June 4.
The currency crisis in Belarus, which runs a Soviet-style economy with many vital sectors under state control, is eroding Belarussians' ruble savings and causing a shortage of imported goods such as medicines.
It appears to be pushing Belarus, whose leader is on poor terms with the European Union over a crackdown on the opposition, more toward Russia even though Lukashenko has had uneven relations, too, with Moscow over the years.
DIFFERENT EXCHANGE RATES
A multi-level exchange rate system is operating in the country with an official rate of 3,120 per dollar, the level at which exporters must sell 30 percent of their foreign currency revenues to the central bank.
Apart from the interbank rate, there is also a separate rate at which ordinary Belarussians can buy dollars at cash points -- though in practice the crisis means the supply of dollars at these outlets has all but dried up.
Interbank trading remained thin on Thursday, reflecting uncertainty over the ruble's future ahead of the Putin visit, the market sources said.
"The quotes are in a spread from 8,000 to 9,000 per dollar. There is practically no trading going on," one source said.
"Everyone is waiting for the decisions which will be announced today," another source said.
Belarus has said it might also turn to the International Monetary Fund for help, though it is not clear if a formal approach has been made yet.
Lukashenko's chances of receiving IMF aid may have been hurt by Western outrage over the arrests of opposition activists, including politicians who ran against him in his re-election last December.
Despite regarding Lukashenko as an eccentric and unpredictable ally, Moscow has subsidized Belarus' Soviet-style economy in exchange for it delivering Russian oil to Europe without problem.
With Belarus now in crisis, Moscow, in return for loans, will have its eye on valuable assets that Minsk may now be under pressure to privatize -- including oil refineries, the gas pipeline system, its main mobile phone provider and its potash production complex.