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Belarus postpones policy decision to analyze inflation

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      Belarus’ central bank has delayed today’s scheduled decision on monetary policy until March, with the board saying it needs to conduct further analysis on the “dynamics of consumer pries and assess the duration of the impact of the key factors that led to the acceleration of consumer price growth.”
     The board of the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus (NBRB) said on its website it would now consider monetary policy on March 12.
     The central bank of Belarus has maintained its benchmark refinancing rate at 7.75 percent since June when it was cut following a request by the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former-Soviet republic since 1994.
      Last year the central bank cut its refi rate three times by a total of 125 basis points and since April 2016 the bank has cut the rate 19 times and by a total of 17.25 percentage points.
     Inflation in Belarus has been accelerating in the last six months and rose to 7.7 percent in January from 7.4 percent in December.
     At its last policy meeting in November 2020 NBRB attributed the rise in consumer prices, especially imported non-food items, to the depreciation of the Belarus ruble.
     The bank’s chairman, Pavel Kallaur, said in a statement in November the rise in inflation was temporary and by the end of 2020 inflation would be around 6 percent and then approach the bank’s target of 5.0 percent by the end of this year.
     The Belarus ruble suffered twin shocks in 2020, first in March as COVID-19 spread worldwide and then in August after Lukashenko said he won the presidential election with 80 percent of the vote.
     But opponents say they won the election and more than 30,000 people have been detained by police since then following mass protests. 
    Last year the European Union imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials, including travel bans and a freeze of assets, for repression against peaceful demonstrators and for misconduct of the electoral process.
     On Feb. 16 Reuters reported Belarusian security forces had searched the homes of journalists and human rights activists across the country
     The Belarus ruble has been largely stable this year and was trading at 2.596 to the U.S. dollar today, down 19 percent since the start of 2020.


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