Tag: national government

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

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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.

Decentralization Reform in Ukraine

Decentralization Reform in Ukraine Policy Brief Image

The current Ukrainian political system, which is a highly centralized “winner-take-all” system, is one of the main causes of the recent mass street protests. A decentralization reform is needed to make the system more stable by providing people with more impact on policy making, and increasing accountability of the government. A decentralization reform would reduce paternalistic expectations and provide people with more opportunities to take responsibility for public policy design in their region. In addition, it would improve the quality of national politics by introducing more competition and allowing successful regional politics to spread to the national level. However, as all reforms, decentralization bears some risks. This policy brief discusses the benefits and risks of such reform, suggests some ways of mitigation of the risks, and the procedure for reform development.

“In decentralized systems, problems can be solved early and when they are small. And when there are terrible failures in economic management—a bankrupt county, a state ill-prepared for its pension obligations—these do not necessarily bring the national economy to its knees.” / Nassim Taleb

In their path-breaking article Roger Myerson and Tymofiy Mylovanov argue that the underlying reason for the Ukrainian street protests in 2004 and 2014 is a fundamental flaw in the country’s Constitution, namely, the design of its government system. Currently, it is basically a “winner-take-all” system, where a winner of the national elections gains almost a dictator’s power, and then tries to prolong his stay in office with all means.

Such a system – where almost all the power is concentrated in the hands of the central government, and where local authorities, even the elected ones, have very little room for their own decisions – resembles an inverted pyramid and is therefore unstable. A natural way to stabilize the system is to put the pyramid on its foundation – i.e. to provide people with more impact on (and responsibility for!) both local and central government policy.

However, the Ukrainian government has announced a decentralization reform, and has already adopted a Decentralization Concept, which defines the main goals and milestones of the reform. According to the Concept, the legislative base for the decentralization should be developed by the end of 2014. However, it is clear that these plans are unrealistic. This, since on top of Constitutional changes, the reform implies changes to the administrative structure of the country, a redistribution of responsibilities between different levels of local government, and changes to the Tax Code, the Budget Code, and to several other documents. Such a scope of reforms is hardly attainable within the planned timeframe.

So far, the President’s office has developed changes to the Constitution, and the Cabinet of Ministers has drafted changes to the Budget Code. However, both documents miss the main point of the reform – empowering of people (rather than simply delegating some responsibilities from central to local governments). Instead, the drafted law on changes to the Constitution empowers the President, and the drafted changes to the Budget Code are an attempt of the central government to get rid of its “headaches” (e.g. ecological or social housing programs) while at the same time consolidating “electorally valuable” spheres, such as education and healthcare. This Draft Law proposes transferring some revenue sources from central to local levels, and at the same time to extract a part of the revenues that currently belong to local budgets to the central budget. A more detailed analysis of the proposed changes is provided in this article.

To my mind, the main impediment to the decentralization reform is a lack of a systemic approach. The Decentralization Concept does not provide a clear reform path, and changes to the legislation proposed so far look like pieces of a puzzle that do not fit together.

I suggest that the decentralization reform should be developed together with the administrative reform and proceed according to the following algorithm:

  1. Define functions of the state and distribute them between different levels of government according to a subsidiarity principle; i.e. a function should be transferred to the lowest government level capable of implementing it.
  2. Estimate the volume of funds needed to implement these functions.
  3. Assign sufficient revenue sources to local governments.
  4. If a community is too small to generate a sufficient revenue flow, merge several communities and repeat steps 3-4, keeping the distance between the center of such a united community and its most remote settlement below a defined limit.
  5. Establish feedback mechanisms through which people in a community could control the authorities and impact their decision-making. These mechanisms are not only elections, but also, more importantly, permanent between-elections activities, such as public hearings/discussions of drafts of local government decisions.
  6. Use a few communities as pilots and thus find out potential strengths and weaknesses of the proposed reform and make necessary corrections.

The outcome of this algorithm should be a logically connected package of legislative changes rather than a bunch of separate documents.

The development of this reform should be as transparent as possible, and accompanied by wide information and education campaigns about the opportunities that decentralization will provide, and the ways to use these opportunities. These information campaigns are necessary because many Ukrainians now think that decentralization (or federalization) is pushed by the Russian president in order to split Ukraine into parts.

As with all reforms, the decentralization has its potential benefits and risks, which should be accounted for. Fortunately, there exists both a wide academic literature and international experience on this issue.

The economic literature, both theoretical and empirical, does not unambiguously show that “decentralization is good”. Rather, a success of decentralization depends on a number of other factors, such as the presence of democracy (Inman, 2008) and a sufficient accountability of the government (both local and central).

In itself, decentralization does not lead to higher economic growth (e.g. the review of Feld et al, 2013). However, when accompanied by other growth-enhancing reforms, decentralization can positively impact a country’s economic development (Bardhan 2002).

Both the literature and experience of other countries suggest the following major risks of decentralization:

  1. Decentralization may increase corruption at the local level. If a local official is not accountable to a higher-level government, she may try to extract some rent from her position. This risk can be reduced by a high transparency of the government and working mechanisms of control of citizens over officials.

Indeed, Lessmann and Markwardt (2009) show that decentralization lowers corruption in countries with high levels of freedom of the press, and is harmful for countries where monitoring of the government is not efficient. Besides, Fan, Lin and Treisman (2009) find that “giving local governments a larger stake in locally generated income can reduce their bribe extraction”, i.e. for decentralization to lower corruption, the institutional setup should encourage local officials to create a favorable business environment in their regions.

  1. Decentralization may intensify secessionist movements. To lower this risk, the largest volume of responsibilities should be transferred to the lowest (community) level. It is rather easy for separatists to buy support of oblast-level officials and get control over an entire oblast. It would be much harder for them to buy every community head in an oblast. Moreover, getting control over an oblast, even rayon by rayon, let alone by community, is practically infeasible.
  2. Decentralization enhances initial inequality between regions – so the central government has to step in by providing subsidies/subventions to less developed regions (Cai and Treisman, 2005).

At the same time, the “bonuses” of decentralization are worth taking the risks:

  1. Reduction of tensions between the regions. In the Ukrainian situation, this implies removing grounds for mutual accusations that “one region feeds other regions” or “one region rules the entire country”. If a party that wins a majority in the national elections does not have extensive power over the daily life of people, they can more easily accept the fact this is not the party they voted for.
  2. Improvement of the national politics by increasing competition between local officials, and between local and central officials. As we know, competition typically increases the quality of a product. Political competition is no exception. As Myerson (2006) notes, “by creating more opportunities for politicians to build reputation as responsible democratic leaders, a federal [decentralized] system can effectively offer an insurance policy against general failure of democracy”. Thus, democracy and decentralization strengthen each other.
  3. More efficient government. On average, policy decisions will be made closer to their final beneficiaries and hence, will be more fitted to the needs of a certain community. At the same time, all levels of government will work more efficiently.

Decentralization does not imply a weakening of the central government. Rather, it frees its institutions from an unnecessary workload allowing them to concentrate on more strategic tasks, such as:

  • protecting people’s rights by establishing a working judicial and security (police and army) systems;
  • forming a strategic vision and general directions of the country’s development;
  • protecting the country’s interests on the international level.

To make sure that decentralization does not result in feudalization, local officials should be controlled not only by local citizens but also by the central government (law enforcement); strong country-wide political parties would also help to hold the country together.


A decentralization of the Ukrainian political system is currently in the very focus of political, public and research debate.

However, this reform is not likely to be an easy one. The prerequisites for successful decentralization include functioning democratic mechanisms – fair elections, a free press and a strong civil society – resulting in government accountability. Also, for the decentralization reform to succeed, it needs to be coherently bundled with a range of political and administrative reforms (such as the development of a functioning judicial system, deregulation, reduction of rent-seeking opportunities etc.), and development and implementation of such a package is challenging and time-consuming.

At the same time, a wisely designed decentralization process will be highly beneficial for Ukraine, both politically and economically. It will strengthen democracy (by increasing people’s participation) and improve the quality of national politics by introducing more competition into the political system. It is also likely to significantly contribute to economic growth and prosperity, and these benefits make the decentralization reform in Ukraine a challenge worth undertaking despite of all the costs and risks.



  • Bardhan, Pranab (2002). “Decentralization of Governance and Development,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pp. 185-205
  • Brancati, Dawn (2006). Decentralization: Fueling the Fire or Dampening the Flames of Ethnic Conflict and Secessionism? International Organization. Vol.60, issue 03, pp. 651-685
  • Cai, Hongbin and Daniel Treisman (2005). Does competition for capital discipline governments? Decentralization, globalization and public policy. The American Economic Review, Vol. 95, No. 3, Jun.2005
  • Cai, Hongbin and Daniel Treisman (2009). Political decentralization and policy experimentation. Quarterly Journal of Political Science. Vol 4. Issue 1.
  • Deiwiks, Christa, Cederman, Lars-Erik und Kristian S. Gleditsch (2012). Inequality and Conflict in Federations. Journal of Peace Research. March 2012 vol. 49 no. 2, pp. 289-304
  • Enikolopov, Ruben and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (2007). Decentralization and political institutions. Journal of Public Economics, No. 91, pp. 2261–2290
  • Fan, C. Simon, Lin, Chen and Daniel Treisman (2009). Political decentralization and corruption: Evidence from around the world. Journal of Public Economics. Vol.: 93 (2009)
    Issue: 1-2, pp: 14-34
  • Inman, Robert P. (2008). Federalism’s Values and the Value of Federalism. NBER Working Paper 13735. http://www.nber.org/papers/w13735
  • Lars P. Feld, Baskaran, Thushyanthan and Jan Schnellenbach (2013). Fiscal Federalism, Decentralization and Economic Growth: A Meta-Analysis. Public Finance Review 41 (4), 421-445
  • Lessmann, Christian and Gunther Markwardt (2009). One Size Fits All? Decentralization, Corruption, and the Monitoring of Bureaucrats, CESIFO Working Paper No. 2662, Cat. 2: Public Choice.
  • Myerson, Roger B. (2006). Federalism and Incentives for Success of Democracy. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 2006, 1: 3–23
  • Treisman, Daniel (2006). Fiscal decentralization, governance, and economic performance: a reconsideration. Economics and Politics, July 2006, 18, 2, pp. 219-35.