Tag: Macroeconomic stability

Monetary Policy in Belarus Since Mid-2020: From Rules to Discretion

20240211 Monetary Policy in Belarus Image 00

The most important “safeguard” against negative consequences from government’s economic policy mistakes is an independent monetary policy aimed at maintaining inflation near a pre-announced target and smoothing out short-term fluctuations. In Belarus, various monetary policy regimes have been employed and, for most of history, the ability of the National Bank of Belarus to set goals and deploy monetary policy instruments without government intervention has been limited. As a result, monetary policy in Belarus tend to exacerbate negative shocks to the Belarusian economy rather than play a stabilizing role. Since mid-2020, the National Bank has de facto lost operational and institutional independence, and monetary policy has become discretionary – focused on stimulating economic activity. As of 2024 this discretionary and expansionary monetary policy has increasingly come into conflict with the need to ensure macroeconomic stability.

Monetary Policy Design in Belarus: Developments in the Last Decade

Since 2015, the National Bank of Belarus (henceforth the National Bank) has declared its monetary policy regime to be monetary targeting. The primary goal of such policy is price stability, while the intermediate target is broad money supply growth. However, research results show that monetary targeting was employed only until mid-2016. From mid-2016 to mid-2020, the National Bank implicitly employed flexible inflation targeting (Kharitonchik, 2023b).

In mid-2020 the National Bank de facto lost its operational independence as the bank was no longer in control of the rules concerning monetary policy (Kharitonchik, 2023a). In 2022-2024, among other things, targets were set for inflation, the growth of the ruble monetary base, broad money supply, the banks’ claims on the economy, and the refinancing rate level. Thus, the National Bank seeks to simultaneously control both the volume of money in the economy and the prices. This is, in practice, expressed in the implementation of discretionary and situational monetary policy.

Under pressure from the government, the National Bank’s monetary policy has since mid-2020 focused on stimulating economic activity, with a high degree of tolerance to inflationary risks. After the US, EU, UK, and several other countries imposed strict sanctions on Belarus in the beginning of 2022, the government’s pressure on the National bank to support economic activity increased even further.

Since October 2022, the only inflation regulator has been strict price controls, exercised by the government in the form of a system of price regulations for approximately 85 percent of the items in the consumer basket. According to the system, manufacturers are obliged to coordinate wholesale prices with government authorities and retailers were in Q4 2022 forced to adjust prices. The system has been modified several times, but as of 2024, it continues to operate in an extremely rigorous version.

Besides the erosion of operational independence, the recent years have been characterized by a marked decline in the institutional framework for executing monetary policy. Aspirations to enhance transparency and accountability of the National Bank to the public seem to be history, at least for the time being. The frequency of the bank’s communication has decreased significantly and its content, as well as the bank’s published data and analytical materials have deteriorated. There are no longer any National Bank briefings on the outcomes of its board meetings, nor are there clear explanations of the decisions made or meetings with the expert community.

The National Bank also introduces uncertainty and undermines confidence in its policies with its strange approach to setting and announcing inflation targets. The increased inflation target, from the previous 5, to 7-8 percent for 2023 is unexplained, the explicit inflation target for 2024 was not presented until the end of August 2023, and the medium-term inflation target is nonexistent. Under such conditions, investment planning and forecasting becomes challenging, necessitating substantial efforts to rebuild trust in monetary authorities for the future.

Figure 1. Inflation and inflation targets in Belarus, 2015–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on data from Belstat and the National Bank of Belarus.

Between 2020 and 2023, the National Bank was unable to effectively implement monetary policy in a coordinated manner, falling short in achieving de jure primary and intermediate targets. Thus, inflation in 2020–2022 was significantly higher than targeted levels, while the money supply growth was close to the lower bound of its target range (see Figure 1 and 2).

Figure 2. Broad money growth and its target in Belarus, 2015–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on data from the National Bank of Belarus.

In 2023, the inflation was below its target due to total price controls, while money supply growth was twice its target (see Figure 2). Such targeted monetary policy dynamics indicate the instability of the economy’s demand for money and the money multiplier, the instability and poor predictability of money velocity in the face of shocks to the Belarusian economy, as well as the lack (or inability) of a strict commitment by the National Bank to achieve the primary goal of monetary policy.

Monetary Conditions Between 2020 and 2023

Monetary conditions are calculated as a weighted combination of deviations of real interest rates on assets in Belarusian rubles and the real effective exchange rate of the Belarusian ruble from their equilibrium levels. As detailed in Figure 3, the monetary conditions for 2020–2023 are considered stimulative for economic activity and pro-inflationary.

Figure 3. Monetary conditions in Belarus,2015–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on QPM BEROC (Kharitonchik, 2023b).
Note: Monetary conditions are estimated as a combination of deviations of real interest rates on the Belarusian ruble assets and of the real effective Belarusian ruble exchange rate from their equilibrium (or inflation-neutral) levels (assessed within the model). Positive monetary condition values indicate their restraining-economic-activity and disinflationary stance, and negative monetary condition values indicate their stimulating and pro-inflationary stance.

In 2020, the soft monetary conditions (the combined effect of interest rates and the exchange rate on the economy) were determined by the behavior of the exchange rate. The Belarusian ruble weakened significantly and became undervalued in 2020 due to a sharp increase in demand for foreign currency at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in Belarus and following the presidential elections in August 2020.

As a result of the National Bank’s discretionary monetary policy, interest rates’ volatility significantly increased. A deterioration of the liquidity situation in the banking system and increased risks to the economy during the acute phase of the socio-political crisis in 2020 resulted in interest rates restraining economic activity in September-December 2020.

In 2021, there was a notable improvement in the economic situation in Belarus compared to the crisis experienced in 2020. External demand for Belarusian goods and services rose, and export prices increased significantly which contributed to an increase in foreign currency earnings. As a result, the undervaluation of the Belarusian ruble neutralized during 2021, the banking system moved to a liquidity surplus, and interest rates decreased noticeably, creating soft monetary conditions (see Figure 3).

In 2022–2023, monetary conditions became even softer against the backdrop of increasing priority for the National Bank to support economic activity over inflation containment. The Belarusian ruble again became undervalued which increased foreign trade and allowed for the banking system’s liquidity surplus to expand significantly (see Figure 4).

The realization of a substantial liquidity surplus in 2022 resulted from the National Bank’s active emission policy, likely associated with considerable government pressure. The National Bank injected at least 1.7 billion Belarusian rubles (0.9 percent of GDP) into the financial system through lending to non-deposit financial organizations in 2022, and more than 1.9 billion Belarusian rubles (1 percent of GDP) in 2022 and 1.1 billion Belarusian rubles (0.5 percent of GDP) in 2023, through the purchase of government bonds on the secondary market.

Figure 4. Banking system liquidity in Belarus, 2017–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on data from Belstat and the National Bank of Belarus.

Under a colossal and stable liquidity surplus – not withdrawn by the National Bank – interest rates in the money and credit-deposit markets, in 2022-2023, repeatedly reached historically low levels in nominal terms, and in real terms remained  significantly below their equilibrium levels (see Figure 3).

The Monetary Conditions’ Impact on Economic Activity and Inflation in Belarus, 2022–2024

Under loose monetary conditions there was a significant strengthening of the credit impulse (share of new loans in GDP) from Q3 2022 and onwards (BEROC, 2023). In this environment of increased credit activity, the money supply grew at a rapid pace in the second half of 2022–2023 (see Figure 2). The money supply growth significantly exceeded an inflation-neutral pace and by the end of 2023, the volume of real money supply exceeded the inflation-neutral level by almost 10 percent.

Expansionary monetary policy was one of the drivers of the rapid economic recovery in the second half of 2022–2023. The negative output gap, which widened in Q2 2022, following increased sanctions against Belarus, was offset in Q1 2023. Moreover, in Q2–Q4 2023, GDP surpassed its equilibrium level (see Figure 5).

Figure 5. Output gap decomposition in Belarus, 2015–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on QPM BEROC (Kharitonchik, 2023b).
Note: The output gap is the deviation of real GDP from its potential (or equilibrium) level, where potential is understood as such a volume of GDP that does not exert any additional pro-inflationary or disinflationary pressure.

By 2024, the Belarusian economy reached a state of moderate overheating (see Figure 5). Currently, loose monetary policy fuels demand but the ability to adjust supply to increased demand levels is limited under sanctions and labor shortages. This mismatch between supply and demand would normally lead to a significant acceleration of inflation. However, due to the strict price controls, this is yet to realize. In fact, inflation reached a historically low value of 2.0 percent Year over Year (YoY), in September 2023. Nonetheless, inflation in Belarus began to accelerate in Q4 in 2023 and amounted to 5.8 percent YoY at the end of the year. In an environment of excess demand and a shortage of workers, firms’ costs rise and translate into higher selling prices, albeit on a limited scale and with a time lag due to the price controls (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. CPI inflation in Belarus, 2015–2023.

Source: Author’s estimates based on data from Belstat. Calculations based on QPM BEROC (Kharitonchik, 2023b).

A prolonged combination of total price controls and loose monetary policy leads to an inflationary overhang – the potential for delayed accelerated price growth. Inflation overhang is a highly undesirable phenomenon since it increases the risk of a price surge in the future and the need for a sharp and aggressive tightening of monetary policy. The inflationary overhang in Belarus is estimated at 5–9 percent (for the end of 2023).  This means that there is a risk of a sharp increase in prices by 5-9 percent if price controls are removed or significantly relaxed.


Since mid-2020, the National Bank has de facto lost its operational independence, and monetary policy has become discretionary, focused on stimulating economic activity. By the beginning of 2024, this discretionary and overly loose monetary policy has increasing come into conflict with the task of ensuring macroeconomic stability.

The Belarusian economy enters 2024 in a state of low economic growth potential (about 1 percent per year) and an imbalance of supply and demand, which creates threats of intensified inflation and a decline in foreign trade.

Attempts by the authorities to artificially maintain high rates of GDP growth and low inflation through excessively stimulating economic policies and archaic price controls may lead to an economic overheating by the end of 2024 similar to the situations leading up to the currency crises in 2009, 2011 and 2015. Under such developments, the fragility of the economy and the likelihood of an economic crisis in Belarus will increase.

To prevent such negative development, it is critical to gradually normalize the monetary policy design in coordination with fiscal policy. Key recommendations from experts for a strengthening of the stabilizing role of monetary policy include ensuring the National Bank’s independence, eliminating discretionary and subjective policymaking, and outlining a clear hierarchy of monetary policy goals (Kruk, 2023).

Simulation results indicate that the use of flexible inflation targeting is the most preferable monetary policy strategy for Belarus under existing sanctions and internal and external capital control measures (as discussed in Kharitonchik, 2023a).

Lastly, as monetary policy is about managing expectations for which trust (i.e. credibility) plays a key role, restoring the public’s trust in the National Bank is essential. To achieve this, the National Bank needs to reestablish communication with the public and resume the publication of analytical and statistical reports, at a minimum matching the extent seen in early 2021.


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in policy briefs and other publications are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the FREE Network and its research institutes.

Poland’s Road to “High Income Country” Status: Lessons Learnt – Not Only for Other Countries

20180311 Poland Road to High Income Country Status Image 01

In this brief we summarize and discuss results presented in a recent World Bank Report focused on Poland’s path from middle to high-income country status. In the period until 2015, Poland’s economic development distinguished itself by its stability and consistency of the implemented reform package, and its inclusive nature. Poland became classified as a high-income country after only 15 years from gaining a middle-income status. At the same time, income inequality remained stable and absolute poverty levels fell significantly. The World Bank Report offers lessons from and insights for Poland, which are discussed from the perspective of the policies implemented by the governments in the last two years.

Poland’s status in the World Bank nomenclature has recently been “upgraded” from being middle to high-income country. While this categorization is only a nominal change, it reflects the country’s economic development over the recent decades and is an important recognition of the success of a wide range of reforms implemented across a broad number of areas. Notably, Poland moved from the middle to high-income status in a period of less than 15 years.

In a book recently published by the World Bank, it is argued that the Polish experiences from the reform process can serve as valuable lessons for countries that are in the process of, or have just embarked upon major socio-economic reforms, as well as for those, who have fallen into the so-called middle-income trap and are looking for solutions to their stagnant economies. At the same time, in comparison to other established high-income countries, there are a number of insights that Poland’s policy makers ought to bear in mind in order to stay on course of the reform process and continued stable growth.

Looking at policies of the recent governments, however, one gets a strong impression that some important insights have been ignored. As rapid population aging looms over the horizon, the lack of necessary adjustments combined with the risks to stability of the political and economic environment might in the medium run have significant implications for Poland’s further development.

The big picture

The key feature of the Polish socio-economic policy approach, over the period covered by the World Bank analysis (i.e. up to 2015), was a unique consistency of a broad direction taken by subsequent administrations. This allowed the reform process to develop without major breaks or U-turns, which ensured the overall stability of the socio-economic environment and provided stable investment prospects. The World Bank highlights the key role of institutions, including rule of law, property rights, and democratic accountability of different levels of government. Basic market institutions, including the respect for rules on price and product regulations, corporate governance and market regulations, as well as foreign trade and investment, have played a crucial role. This framework allowed for continued improvement in the efficiency of resource allocation – including the allocation between sectors of the economy, as well as between and within enterprises.

Crucially, Poland prepared well and took full advantage of the integration with the European Union. The EU accession was first used as a common anchor for stability of the reform process, and after 2004, the European funds became an additional engine of growth. At the macro level, stability of the fiscal framework with limited deficits and public debt were combined with appropriate regulation and supervision of the financial sector, an independent central bank, and close links to global markets.

Shared prosperity

While the above points provided the basis for Poland’s economic development, the Report highlights another unique feature of Poland’s success, namely the degree to which the fruits of the process have been equally shared among different groups of society. The overall income inequality has remained relatively stable, with the Gini coefficient actually falling slightly between 2005 and 2014, from 0.351 to 0.343. Relative income poverty levels remained stable over this period (at about 20%), and the levels of absolute poverty fell significantly. For example, the proportion of the population living on less than $10 per day fell from 51.3% in 2005, to 29.6% in 2014. Growing incomes were primarily driven by increases in labor earnings, but employment growth – in particular among older age groups –also made a contribution. The government’s labor market policy also played a role with a rapid increase in the level of the national minimum wage (NMW), which grew by 65% in real terms between 2005 and 2015, i.e. almost twice as fast as the average wage. While there is evidence that the rapid growth in the NMW had negative effects on employment – in particular among temporary, young, and female workers, these have been relatively modest. Additionally, the tax and benefit policy has contributed to reduced inequality. It has been estimated that nearly half of the reduction in the Gini coefficient, over the period 2005–2014, resulted from reforms of the tax and benefit system (Myck and Najsztub, 2017).

It is clear that human capital was one of the cornerstones of Poland’s success in recent years. Developments on the labor market, such as a rapid productivity growth, were facilitated by a well-educated labor force, which could respond and adjust to the changing conditions and requirements. In this regard, Poland’s advantage in comparison to many other low and middle-income countries has been the relatively high level of spending on public education and healthcare, not only since the start of the economic transformation in the 1990s, but also before that. Indicators, such as the infant mortality rate, were low in Poland already in the 1980s, and have since further improved (see Figure 1). For a long time, public spending on education has been at levels comparable to those in established high-income countries (see Figure 2). Additionally, a series of reforms to the education system since 1990, have resulted in improvements in the quality and coverage of education. This, in turn, has lead to a rapid improvement of scores in language, mathematics, and science in the PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment), in which Polish students recently outperformed those from many other OECD countries (OECD 2014). Importantly, the improvements in the education results have been found across the socio-economic spectrum, which further stresses the inclusive character of the changes that have taken place.

Figure 1. Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births), 1980 and 2014

Notes: Countries grouped in the following manner: red – middle-income countries; blue – new high-income countries; green – established high-income countries. Horizontal lines represent group averages. Source: World Bank (2017), Figure 5.16, based on World Development Indicators.

Figure 2. Government expenditure on education, percent of GDP, 1990

Source: World Bank (2017), Figure 5.11, see notes to Figure 1.

Insights for Poland

“As economies enter the high-income group, weakness in economic institutions such as the rule of law, property rights, and the quality of governance become increasingly important to sustain convergence.”

World Bank (2017)

While the Polish reform experience, over the period examined in the World Bank Report, offers important lessons for other countries aspiring to the high-income status, the authors point out that Poland’s continued development needs to rely on further improvements in a number of key areas. The following policy areas have been highlighted in the Report:

  • Working on more inclusive political and economic institutions and enhancing the rule of law with the focus on the judiciary;
  • Adjustments to fiscal policy in particular to deal with the consequences of population aging;
  • Increasing the domestic level of savings to facilitate large investment needs;
  • Supporting innovation through more intense competition and high quality research education;
  • Improving social assistance programs and access to high quality health and education for low income groups;
  • Increasing the progressivity of the tax system to support inclusive growth;
  • Adjusting migration policies to bring in skills and innovative ideas and compensate for the country’s aging workforce.

“Sustaining Poland’s record of high, stable growth will require adjustments to fiscal policy (…). Government will need to create the fiscal space to deal with the increasing pressures coming from aging, the inevitable decline of EC structural funds for investment, and a more uncertain global context.”

World Bank (2017)

Lessons, insights and recent policies

While several of the Law and Justice majority governments’ policies since 2015 have been well in line with the World Bank recommendations, there have also been a number of questionable policy areas. One major concern seems to relate to the broad background of reforms of the judiciary, which have drawn significant criticism of the European Commission and other international institutions. Implications of such major changes for economic growth are uncertain but potentially very damaging.

Another long-term concern arises from the new pension age reform. From the socio-economic perspective, rapid ageing of the population is one of the main challenges facing the country. Between 2015 and 2030, the number of people aged 65+ will grow from 6.1 million to 8.6 million, i.e. by over 40%. This will put significant strains on the country’s public finances due to increasing public-pension expenditures and growing costs of health and long-term care. These pressures will only be exacerbated by the current government’s decision to lower the statutory retirement age to 60 for women and 65 for men, from the target uniform age of 67 legislated in the reform of 2012. Given the contributions-defined nature of the Polish pension system, this will result in significantly lower levels of pensions, especially among women, and a substantial drain on public finances resulting from lower levels of contributions and taxes.

The generous family benefits of the Family 500+ Program – implemented in 2016 and which cost about 1.3% of the GDP – have also been criticized on a number of grounds. They have undoubtedly changed the financial conditions of numerous families and limited the extent of child poverty. At the same time, they contribute to maintaining low levels of female labor-force participation and there is so far little indication that they have significantly changed Poland’s very low fertility rate. It seems that while the program may have positive long-term consequences resulting from reduced poverty, it is unlikely to shift the demographic dynamics.

Uncertainty also surrounds the consequences of a haphazard major education reform, which is another trademark policy of the Law and Justice party. The reform re-introduced the 8+4 system in place of the post-1999 three-level educational arrangement (6+3+3). The new system takes the number of years of general education back from 9 to 8 years, and instead extends by one year the length of secondary schooling. While the potential effects of such a change are difficult to foresee, the 8+4 system may be in particular disadvantageous to children from rural areas, who are most likely to continue their education in their rural primary schools for the two extra years.

A number of steps taken by the government since late 2015, and in particular those related to the redistributive policies implemented in the last two years, seem to be consistent with the World Bank insights. On the other hand, the approach towards the reforms of the judiciary, the general approach to the rule of law, and the reforms of education and pension regulations, quite clearly appear to ignore not only the insights, but also the lessons resulting from Poland’s own experience of the recent decades. Given the challenge of rapid aging in the Polish population, there seems to be much gained from taking them seriously if the current and future administrations want to ensure Poland’s continued inclusive growth and to secure its status as an established high-income country.


This policy brief draws heavily on the World Bank (2017) Report: “Lessons from Poland, Insights for Poland: A sustainable and inclusive transition to high-income status” (co-authored by Michal Myck) and the accompanying Working Paper by Myck and Najsztub (2016). Views and opinions expressed in this brief are the sole responsibility of the author and are not endorsed by the World Bank or CenEA.


  • Myck, M., and M. Najsztub (2016) “Distributional Consequences of Tax and Benefit Policies in Poland: 2005–2014.” CenEA Microsimulation Report 02/16, Centre for Economic Analysis, Szczecin.
  • OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2014) PISA 2012 Results: What Students Know and Can Do—Student Performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science (Volume I: Revised edition, February 2014). Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • World Bank (2017) “Lessons from Poland, Insights for Poland: A sustainable and inclusive transition to high-income status”, The World Bank, Washington.