All Eyes On Belarus

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Poet's picture
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All Eyes On Belarus

Argentina was certainly a lesson and I'm sure we have all learned a lot. But I think we can also learn from what's happening in Belarus right now.

Maybe this can be a place to share and gain information (news articles, video links, e-mails/words from friends or contacts living there) on the unfounding situation in Belarus over these next few days and weeks. What's happening? How are people reacting? What they are doing?

Belarus Devaluation Spreads Panic
"A sharp devaluation of the Belarusian ruble has spread panic across the country, with people rushing on Wednesday to buy dollars, euros, toasters and canned goods - anything that will not lose its value as quickly as the national currency. Belarusians swept store shelves Belarusians swept store shelves and queued for entire days at currency exchange offices in a desperate attempt to protect their savings from the country's sinking fortunes."
http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Belarus-devaluation-spreads-panic-...

The pictures (from the link above) are telling. And there are so many choice quotes in the above article: "'Belarus could make its ends meet as long as Russia was subsidizing it,' said Leonid Zaiko, head of the Minsk-based Strategiya independent think-tank. 'But once Russia stopped offering loans, everything has collapsed.'" Sounds awfully familiar, doesn't it?

VTB Says Belarus Bound for Meltdown, Ruble Plunge, as Locals Hoard Fridges
";'I can't describe how I feel without using obscenities, this is all our government’s fault,' said Sergey, a 32-year old attending the protest who works for a computer importer. 'The whole world tells them, guys, you have economic problems, you should do something, and all they did was live off getting more and more loans.'"
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-25/belarus-headed-for-economic-mel...

Poet

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Sounds Like....

The United States....in maybe 2 years? Or the end of summer.

Excess government spending on everything from global corporate banks to unnecessary social programs and failed security measures.

 

But gold and silver have dropped a little so I can buy some more.

Good job digging this up Poet.

Best wishes,

Jager06

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Worth Reading: Warning Signs Were All Around!!

It's not like the people of Belarus didn't get prior warnings. Even as the authorities and central bank were denying the truth, as you can see, the people were trying to diversify out of the Belarusian ruble.

Choice quotes below:

Belarus - On The Brink Of Devaluation (April 5, 2011)
"Belarusian authorities promise there will be no one-time depreciation while citizens besiege banks buying up foreign currencies, but there is not enough cash to satisfy the demand. The country’s banks have stopped providing loans to citizens, as they are used to buying dollars and euros immediately afterwards. They also restricted cash withdrawals from banking accounts."
http://rt.com/news/belarus-devaluation/

Belarus Rejects Sharp Devaluation (March 31, 2011)
"Belarus's central bank ruled out a sharp devaluation of the country's currency, even as the International Monetary Fund and a top-level government official said such a move may be needed. The announcement came amid a heightened level of worry in Minsk, where local residents stocked up on metro tokens and gasoline amid fears that the Belarussian ruble will lose its value."
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870380630457623412135441859...

Proof that there were signs in the months and weeks before May 23, 2011. People might not have been able to easily obtain dollars and euros and resilience goods beforehand, but I bet you it was much, much easier to obtain before this week!!!

And it wasn't the first time in recent years. There was a 20% devaluation on January 2, 2009. (I didn't know this before today.) And that's just less than 20 years since the collapse of the former Soviet Union wrought economic havoc.

Big Differences Between Belarus and a USA Devaluation (April 15, 2011)
"Belarus has halted sales of gold, it seems many weren’t trying to get roubles in hand or even US dollars but were going straight to gold bullion. The rumors say even with the bailout they could still be looking at a 20-30% devaluation."
http://goldandsilverlinings.com/?p=664

Belarus President Says Devaluation Was IMF Demand (January 9, 2009)
"Last week's sharp devaluation of the Belarussian currency, a shock to many in the ex-Soviet republic, was a condition of a $2.5 billion IMF loan, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Friday. The devaluation has sent people rushing to buy goods before prices go up and some say it could shake faith in the rule of Lukashenko, who had insulated the population from world market turbulence by keeping much of the economy in state hands."
http://dalje.com/en-economy/belarus-president-says-devaluation-was-imf-d...

Once you're on a devaluation/hyperinflation track, it's likely to happen again and again. People anticipate more in the future, and the expectations lead to reality. I think the lessons for the rest of us fiat currency users is, even some depreciation in the value of what we buy or prepare with as a hedge against hyperinflation and economic collapse, may be an acceptable risk compared to the risk of being caught with our pants down in a greater devaluation/hyperinflation of our savings and financial assets. Even a little preparation goes a long way. I bet no one in Argentina today is wishing they had bought less gold or canned goods or one less generator, prior to 2001.

Right now I'm wishing I had a home so I could store things and plant things, instead of just a one-bedroom apartment in suburbia, and that money wasn't so tight for my family. The rest of you guys out there are lucky indeed. I think we're seeing clear positive warning signs that being prepared and having resilience is a good thing.

P.S. - Thanks, Jager06.

Poet

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deja vu

I showed the zerohedge article to my wife, because it sounded exactly how she described Mongolia's devaluation in the early 90's and the escalating effects that followed.  Just like Belarus, the government devalued the currency to help with its debt problem, which sparked a total loss of confidence in the currency and within 2-3 days nothing was left in the store.  Her family ended up buying some extra furniture of all things, just to get something that wouldn't be worth zero.  After that the government put rationing into effect, but the rations were never enough so one went to the black market for anything else.  There was one or two government stores that sometimes had a few things in stock, but that was it.

Realistically, there's a big difference between Belarus and Mongolia and an economy like the US.  These were/are much, much smaller economies that never were considered sturdy to begin with.  (Opinion) It seems much more likely that any accelerated currency depreciation in the US will be slower and less pronounced, especially while we still have reserve currency status.  Still hellish for everyone involved, but dollars will still have some (diminished) value even if it's not the preferred currency to hold.  It may be toilet paper in the end, but (most likely) not INSTANT toilet paper.

- Nickbert

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Maybe It's Not So Bad For US After All...

Nickbert

Thank you for sharing your perspective. I do agree that we likely won't see a sudden collapse or devaluation due to having a much larger country with a lot more assets, resources, goods and services to trade with, and reserve currency status. Things are more likely to erode over time than suddenly collapse. That is what gives me hope that my family still has some time.

The stories of Belarus and Argentina as important cautionary tales for the rest of US. Let's hope we ourselves do not become cautionary tales for others...

Poet

nickbert wrote:

I showed the zerohedge article to my wife, because it sounded exactly how she described Mongolia's devaluation in the early 90's and the escalating effects that followed.  Just like Belarus, the government devalued the currency to help with its debt problem, which sparked a total loss of confidence in the currency and within 2-3 days nothing was left in the store.  Her family ended up buying some extra furniture of all things, just to get something that wouldn't be worth zero.  After that the government put rationing into effect, but the rations were never enough so one went to the black market for anything else.  There was one or two government stores that sometimes had a few things in stock, but that was it.

Realistically, there's a big difference between Belarus and Mongolia and an economy like the US.  These were/are much, much smaller economies that never were considered sturdy to begin with.  (Opinion) It seems much more likely that any accelerated currency depreciation in the US will be slower and less pronounced, especially while we still have reserve currency status.  Still hellish for everyone involved, but dollars will still have some (diminished) value even if it's not the preferred currency to hold.  It may be toilet paper in the end, but (most likely) not INSTANT toilet paper.

- Nickbert

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Official Belarusian News For May 27, 2011

"I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!"

Lukashenko Asks Belarusians To Stop Frenzied Buying
"'Please, stop making larders out of your apartments. If you need, for instance, 1kg of meat, buy it, but don’t buy 10kg. We just will not be able to deliver three times as much meat to shops as they had yesterday'. Alexander Lukashenko believes that prices are already sky high and have no room to grow. The President said he was bewildered by the frenzied buying of commodities, which are produced in Belarus in sufficient amounts and which stock reserves can last 1.5 years to satisfy the demand of the population."
http://news.belta.by/en/news/president?id=633706

In overtones of Hosni Mubarak and the former Soviet Union, the Belarusian (dictator) President said will fire everyone if they fail to stabilize the situation. Except himself, of course.

Lukashenko may sack government For Country’s Instability
"The Belarusian government will be fired if they fail to secure stability in the country, said President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at the government session held on 27 May to discuss the situation on the consumer market and the foreign currency market. The head of state told those present at the session that he had no intention of firing anyone yet. 'But I warn you: if you don’t fulfill my instructions, heads will roll. You will not make me do the job of a crisis manager anymore. Everyone has its job, get on with it!' stressed the President."
http://news.belta.by/en/news/president?id=633684

Lukashenko Orders Shutdown Of Alarmist Mass Media
"The mass media who have been stirring hype on the consumer and foreign exchange markets should be shut down, he President of Belarus said when speaking at a government session to discuss the situation on the consumer market and the foreign currency market."
http://news.belta.by/en/news/president?id=633670

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firing the government in Belarus

The notion of a president firing the government because it doesn't do what he wants sounds very odd to an American.  Here the "government" and the press could send his head rolling....I am assuming that was a metaphor.......

I suppose the people there have some memory of deprivation and don't want to see it in their own homes again.  Getting well supplied just for insurance.

 

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Eyewitness Account - Stores Running Out Of Sugar

Stores Running Out Of Sugar

I started a FaceBook conversation with a young college student in Belarus.

He wrote: "Yes, you're right about the prices of goods. Today i was in 12 shops, in 11 of 12 i didn't find sugar. And only in the 12th shop i found it. But i was in shock! People are really crazy, near box with sugar old women and men cried on each other and they looked like hungry. Cause they took 12 kilograms, 10, 24!!!!! And all because tomorrow sugar will grow up on 40% and all products from or with sugar also will grow up!"

Hmm... I hear white table sugar has an indefinite shelf life if properly stored (no moisture, etc.).

Poet

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Lukashenka’s Prisoners Dilemma

Silence all opposition!

Lukashenka’s Prisoners Dilemma
"Belarus authorities appear to be scared not only of political opponents but also of any public meetings.  Yesterday police cracked down on a fully apolitical gathering of Minsk cyclers. The cyclers get together every month in central Minsk to encourage authorities to make the city friendlier for cyclers. But this time police decided to prevent their gathering and detained fifteen people... When the population is getting poorer day by day the Belarus regime does not want to take chances. The main reason of the economic crises was Russia's decision to cut down its subsidies to Lukashenka."
http://belarusdigest.com/2011/05/28/lukashenka%E2%80%99s-prisoners-dilemma

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Google Translate: Belarusian News Articles

Google Translate applied to a Belarusian news source...

Capital controls implemented.

Lukashenko: I've Banned The National Bank To Sell Gold Reserves And Foreign Currency
"I forbade Prokopovich sell not only the country's gold reserves, but currency."
http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fa...
Original: http://afn.by/news/i/152979

No, really!

The Situation In The Country Has Developed A Rather Complicated - Ministry Of Economy
"According to him, now in Belarus are poor 5,2% of the population, but by the end of the year, this figure could increase to 10%."
http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fa...
Original: http://afn.by/news/i/152945

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Thanks...

Thanks Poet for your diligent work.

I have had to work 16 hour shifts over the last few days and finally only had an 8 today. I am glad I got a chance to catch up.

Excellent work, especially with the informant in Belarus describing his shopping excursions.

I looks more and more like what I imagined our future would look like if the same loss of confidence were to take hold here int he US.

FYI- I heard an officer I work with today say how he could not wait to get paid, so he could spend it all on food. "Prices are going up so dang fast, I want to get as much as I can right now before the price goes up any more after payday. I have kids to feed!"

Ever heard the story about the shoe shine boy on Wall Street? I think that last sentece I overheard may qualify.

Best Wishes,

Jager06

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Merchants may stop accepting

Merchants may stop accepting the government's funny money (if they can) and if that happens, the military will demand they be paid with such currency that merhants will accept.  Or else.

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More Economic News From Belarus
Carl Veritas wrote:

Merchants may stop accepting the government's funny money (if they can) and if that happens, the military will demand they be paid with such currency that merhants will accept.  Or else.

Sounds logical. It's a path other countries undergoing devaluation or hyperinflation have followed. The military obviously wants to continue to be paid in something approaching a living wage and their support is crucial. We'll have to see how it goes.

More news...

Belarus Raises Key Rate To 16%, Most In World, To Stem Outflows (May 30, 2011)
"Belarus raised its main interest rate for the second time this month to the highest in the world, as it sees to stem outflows and bolster the ruble. The former Soviet republic’s refinancing rate will rise two percentage points to 16 percent from June 1, after raising the benchmark one point on May 18, the central bank said on its website today. That’s more than the 14 percent rates for Pakistan and Vietnam, the second-highest of 52 central bank benchmark rates tracked by Bloomberg."
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-30/belarus-raises-key-rate-to-16-m...

S&P Lowers Belarus Debt Ratings On Funding Concerns (May 27, 2011)
"Standard & Poor's Ratings Services lowered Belarus's junk-level, long-term local currency sovereign credit rating one notch, citing the rising general government debt burden and decreased fiscal flexibility."
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110527-707555.html

Maybe the lesson to be learned here is, once you start sliding down as a country, the negative spiral start picking up.

Juche. Isn't that what the North Koreans are into? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juche)

Juche Ideas From Lukashenka (May 27, 2011)
"Alyaksandr Lukashenka said the country’s leadership would not allow massive privatization of state-owned entities in spite of economic problems."
http://charter97.org/en/news/2011/5/27/39009/

Poet

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Thank you Poet for your

Thank you Poet for your continueing coverage of this collapse. The real news can no longer be found on TV in the evenings, but here on this site.

TD

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High Level Overviews, Where's The Ground Reporting
TD wrote:

Thank you Poet for your continueing coverage of this collapse. The real news can no longer be found on TV in the evenings, but here on this site.

Thanks, TD. There really isn't much coming out of that country, it seems. No real, nitty-gritty articles about what's really going on at the ground level. A Russian reporter got deported after interviewing the wife of one of the imprisoned presidential candidates. I'm sure that doesn't make for official encouragement of independent journalism.

I'll keep searching.

This one seems to be stating an obvious economic consequence of price freezes.

Price Freeze Leads To Goods Deficit (May 31, 2011)
"Syarhei Balykin, the head of the Association of Small and Medium Businesses, thinks the government’s decision to extend the list of socially important goods and freezing prices on them will lead to their deficit."
http://charter97.org/en/news/2011/5/31/39130/

And I guess if you don't have oil like Saudi Arabia, you need to make reforms if you want to get any foreign aid. Arresting all the other presidential candidates doesn't make getting international aid or access any easier...

Dictatorial Belarus Will Get No Money From EU (May 31, 2011)
"...The EU has decided to increase the volume of support to its neighbours, but the increased EU support is conditional. There are concrete benchmarks against which the EU will assess progress in different countries including Belarus. The key ones are: 'genuinely free and fair elections; freedom of assembly and of expression, including a free press and media; independent judiciary and the right to a fair trial; fight against corruption and democratic control over security and armed forces.'"
http://charter97.org/en/news/2011/5/31/39131/

U.S. Condemns Belarus Dissident Sentences, Vows Sanctions (May 27, 2011)
"U.S. President Barack Obama says Washington will pursue expanded sanctions against the hardline regime of Belarusian Alyaksandr Lukashenka in response to his crackdown on the country’s opposition. The announcement comes amid renewed condemnation from Obama and European leaders of the recent sentencing of opposition presidential candidates in trials they say are politically motivated... More than 600 people, including seven of nine presidential candidates running against the man dubbed “Europe’s last dictator,” were arrested during a mass post-election rally in Minsk."

Poet

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More...

You can expect very little in the market for sausages, cheese, coffee, tea, salt, fish and certain fruits and vegetables since everyone will buy at relatively cheap prices, while businesses will be reluctant to produce or supply at a loss...

UPDATE: Belarus Freezes Food Staple Prices After Devaluation (May 31, 2011)
"Belarus froze prices on key foodstuffs Tuesday in a sign of deepening economic crisis, after a recent currency devaluation led to people hoarding products due to fears of a financial meltdown. Prices for sausages, cheese, coffee, tea, salt, fish and certain fruits and vegetables will be frozen until July 1, according to a decree issued by Belarus's economy ministry. Belarus's financial situation has spiraled out of control with a long-predicted devaluation of the Belarussian ruble finally taking place this month leading to the currency losing 36% of its value in a day."
http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110531-710758.html (May need to search Google by article title to avoid registration.)

Russia’s Sberbank Fears That Its Assets In Belarus May Depreciate (May 31, 2011)
"A further deterioration of the economic situation in Belarus may lead to the depreciation of Sberbank’s assets in the country, the Russian largest bank says in a report."
http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2011/05/31/ic_news_259_369014/

Really insightful article. Reminds one of Greece in some aspects. And banana republics in other aspects. Possibly the best summary so far.

Lukashenko Digs Belarus' Grave (May 26, 2011)
"Once again, Belarus has entered one of its many payments crises. Usually, such a crisis ends with Russia bailing the country out. A bailout attempt has been carried out this time as well, but this Belarussian crisis may be more onerous. President Alexander Lukashenko caused the current payments crisis by hiking public salaries by no less than 50 percent in fall 2010 in preparation for the Dec. 19 presidential election. On his promises of an average wage of $500 a month, nominal wages rose by 41 percent in 2010 and real wages by 25 percent. Even after this populist measure, Lukashenko used unprecedented violence in the election."
http://www.themoscowtimes.com/opinion/article/lukashenko-digs-belarus-gr...

Poet

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I thought that Belarus was

I thought that Belarus was part of the Russian Federation.  Don't they peg their currency to the Russians? 

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Peggared To The Dollar, Beggared to IMF
theringleader wrote:

I thought that Belarus was part of the Russian Federation.  Don't they peg their currency to the Russians? 

They supposedly peg to the dollar.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarusian_ruble

Belarus Asks IMF For Rescue Loan Of Up To $8 Billion (June 1, 2011)
"Belarus is requesting a new economic rescue loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it cope with a deepening financial crisis. Belarusian Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich said Wednesday the government has asked for an IMF loan between $3.5 billion and $8 billion for the next three to five years."
http://www.voanews.com/english/news/europe/Belarus-Asks-IMF-for-Rescue-L...

IMF Must Be Tough On Belarus (June 1, 2011)
"Frustrated by Russian demands that Belarus sell state assets in return for loans, he is turning to the International Monetary Fund for help. But any lending must have watertight conditions attached. Belarus is a repeat customer at the IMF."
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230374530457635948134390601...

Belarus To Seek IMF Bail-out (June 1, 2011)
"Belarus has said it will seek a $3.5bn-$8bn bail-out from the International Monetary Fund to try to ease a financial crisis that has forced a sharp devaluation and sparked panic buying of some goods. Such a move would be a significant volte-face by authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko, who had sought support from Russia and other former Soviet states and recently lashed out at foreign interference in the Belarus economy."
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/9a436604-8c6c-11e0-883f-00144feab49a.html (May need to search title on Google to access.)

Poet

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Thank you so much for

Thank you so much for posting this.  My mind is blown by this news.   I have spent the last day or so looking into the news from Belarus.  I don't know how this story got by me.  I guess I must still have a whole lot of research ahead of me... Humbled.... 

I have been (er...tried to be...) a dedicated follower of the world geo-political economy and all its stories for years...mainly through the Economist and other non-U.S. news outlets.  But this is the first time they have failed to let me know what is coming down the pipeline.  So where do I go from here????  Why is this story not in any of the news???  There is so much talk about Greece and Italy, Spain and Ireland, Portugal, how did this slide under the radar of the big news outlets?  Or...are they just steering clear of it?  (I hesitate to voice my suspicions.) 

These are questions for me to answer, and thank you to the board for clueing me in.

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Europe's Own Cuba
theringleader wrote:

Thank you so much for posting this.  My mind is blown by this news.   I have spent the last day or so looking into the news from Belarus.  I don't know how this story got by me.  I guess I must still have a whole lot of research ahead of me... Humbled.... 

I have been (er...tried to be...) a dedicated follower of the world geo-political economy and all its stories for years...mainly through the Economist and other non-U.S. news outlets.  But this is the first time they have failed to let me know what is coming down the pipeline.  So where do I go from here????  Why is this story not in any of the news???  There is so much talk about Greece and Italy, Spain and Ireland, Portugal, how did this slide under the radar of the big news outlets?  Or...are they just steering clear of it?  (I hesitate to voice my suspicions.) 

These are questions for me to answer, and thank you to the board for clueing me in.

You are welcome. However, I think the reason you may have missed some of this news is because there is so little coming out of Belarus, and it's such a small country. They want to borrow $8 billion from the IMF. That's chump change compared to what Greece and Ireland are facing.

Belarus Faces An Economic Precipice (May 31, 2011)
"Others who have no access to dollars are investing their rubles in items they hope will keep their value. Gold, silver and jewelry are the first candidates - but not everyone has access to these. Others have snatched up fixed-price goods like cars, washing machines and refrigerators. As a last resort they have turned to non-perishable food stuffs, such as salt, rice and sugar. In some areas of the country, store shelves have reportedly been picked clean."
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/110530/belarus-ru...

Belarus Devaluation Feeding Crisis Fears (June 1, 2011)
"Belarus’s problems are not restricted to soaring food prices. Last Friday, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) cut its long-term local currency sovereign credit rating from B+ to B - lower than Greece - and placed the country on CreditWatch with negative implications."
http://www.fundweb.co.uk/belarus-devaluation-feeding-crisis-fears/103201...

Poet

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"Yays! We Can Has Loan! LOL!" Says BelarusCat

Hey, at least we're not a country deeply in debt and experiencing rapidly rising inflation while wages remain stagnant... Oh, no! We're not anything like that!!

At least you’re not in Belarus (June 3, 2011)
"Country asks for another IMF bailout, after screwing up the first one. There are few signs of spending coming under control. The neighbour which really holds the purse strings demands ever more privatisation...Not Greece. Not Greece at all. Belarus has fallen even further into currency crisis..."
http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2011/06/03/584651/at-least-youre-not-in-...

Don't they say the government always under-reports inflation? Doesn't devaluing your currency officially by 36%, but on-the-street by over 50%, lead to much higher inflation than just 20%?!?

Belarus Inflation Rate Hits 20%: Official (June 3, 2011)
"'Consumer prices rose by 20.2 percent as of June 1,' the Interfax news agency quoted Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Tur as saying, without providing further details."
http://news.ph.msn.com/business/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4902078

Oh, I get it. You meant officially. And only in the last 5 months.

Inflation Rate For Five Month Is 20,2% In Belarus (June 3, 2011)
"Prices in Belarus increased by 20.2% from January 1 till June 1. Deputy Economy Minister of Belarus Andrei Tur informed on this on June 3. 'I can report that on June 1, inflation will be 20.2%, ' - he said."
http://telegraf.by/2011/06/inflation-rate-for-five-month-is-202-in-belar...

Talk is cheap. Especially when you're talking against the hand that feeds you. Then again, talking tough in public while licking butt in private is well understood in politics.

Belarus Ban On Russian Media Could Threaten Loan: Kremlin (May 28, 2011)
"Lukashenko on Friday accused the Russian media of sensationalising the former Soviet republic's economic crisis and causing panic-buying on the streets of Minsk and other major cities.... 'Do everything to make sure that these media are no longer present on our territory,' Lukashenko instructed his ministers in televised remarks."
http://news.ph.msn.com/business/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4880147

There is much to be discussed.

CIS Finance Ministers To Discuss Belarus Currency Crisis In Kiev (June 4, 2011)
"Finance ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States will discuss the economic situation in the CIS member countries, including a major currency crisis in Belarus, during their meeting in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Saturday... In the first quarter of this year, the Belarusian ruble experienced pressure from a large trade deficit, generous wage increases and loans granted by the government ahead of the December 2010 presidential elections, which spurred strong demand for foreign currency."
http://en.rian.ru/world/20110604/164430852.html

Yay! They got another loan! To live on for another few years (or a couple of months, really)... Now is that a pay-day loan, or the kind of loan you give your deadbeat relative who won't ever be able to pay it back? Until the next crisis.

Russia-led Fund Grants Belarus $3 Billion Loan (June 4, 2011)
"Cash-strapped Belarus will receive a three-year $3 billion loan from a Russia-led regional bailout fund as it seeks to stabilize its economy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday."
http://ca.reuters.com/article/businessNews/idCATRE7531NB20110604

The other day, my new friend in Belarus mentioned hearing rumours that Gaddafi's wife and daughter were in Minsk...

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A Click Away from the KGB: Internet Revolution in Belarus?

My Belarusian friend on Facebook has been telling his friends to change their country/location and other information to something else, like Finland or the United States. He says he heard that the Belarusian government plans on deleting or shutting down social media sites or accounts related to Belarus.

I think this is related to the recent news of crackdowns on opposition in Belarus:

A Click Away From The KGB: Internet Revolution In Belarus?
(June 7, 2011)
"Just last week, the Belarusian police began a campaign against the administrators of a number of opposition groups on the networking site Vkontakte. On June 3, they arrested and later released Sergei Pauliukevich and Dmitri Niafiodau. Pauliukevich’s group “We stand for great Belarus” had over 120,000 registered members,  and its “Millions March” event had gathered over 40,000 potential attendees. Niafiodau’s group "Revolution via the Social Network" was also very popular; his movement “Dvizhenie budushego” (Movement of the Future) attracted over 200,000 members. On June 4, the Belarusian authorities also detained opposition activist Ivan Stasyuk, asking him to stop posting on social networking sites."
http://belarusdigest.com/2011/06/07/click-away-kgb-internet-revolution-b...

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Russians Buy Meat For Cheap In Belarus

Wow, does this remind you of the German Weimar Republic? Or Zimbabwe?

Belarus Runs Out Of Meat As Russians Exploit Currency Plunge (August 31, 2011)
"The government banned individuals in June from taking basic consumer goods such as home appliances, food and gasoline out of the country. Russians, buoyed by the removal of border checkpoints July 1 as part of a customs union, have circumvented the restrictions...The only legal way for citizens to obtain foreign currency is by waiting at licensed exchange booths, where queues often exceed a hundred and the names of people who have left their details on previous visits are called daily."
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-08-31/belarus-runs-out-of-meat-as-...

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There Is How Belarusians Go To The Shops

The Facebook friend of mine in Belarus posted a link to this YouTube video. He wrote: "There is how Belarusians go to the shops!:D Poor girl-seller..."

Link to above YouTube video:

I asked him how much money that was. He said in DOLLARS, it was near $16 to 18.

I thought the video was sad. But it wasn't really sad to him - what was funny to him was the lady being forced to count the money.

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Re: Belarus shopping

Eh... while the Belarusian ruble has devalued a lot in the past year (~75%?), the video is a little absurd.  It was hard to make out, but the few notes that I could see looked like 20 ruble notes, each of which comes out to be worth about 1/4 of a penny?  I imagine those notes are probably no longer circulated.  There are much higher denomination ruble currency bills out there.... the kid(s) in the video look to be mostly doing it for a goof.  But yeah, it's definitely much more of a dick move than a funny joke.

In Mongolia I was surprised one time at the store when I got some 1 Tugrik notes as part of my change, each of which is worth not even 1/10th of a penny.  Usually they just round to the nearest 20 Tugriks.... I think someone gave them to my cashier and she just wanted to get rid of them .  One of the things I found annoying there was that the largest denomination bill over there is worth approximately 14-15 bucks; definitely makes for a more packed wallet if you're on a big shopping trip, especially as you accumulate change as the day progresses.

- Nick

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