Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Crack-up Boom in Belarus

Belarus appear on the verge of experiencing hyperinflation.

Reports the Bloomberg, [bold emphasis mine]

Belarus is headed for an economic “meltdown” and the ruble will need to depreciate another 51 percent, VTB Capital said, as locals lay siege to shops and protest price increases after the central bank devalued the currency.

The Belarusian central bank let the managed ruble weaken by 36 percent versus the dollar on May 24 as demand for dollars and euros from importers and households threatened to derail an economy already laboring under a current-account deficit equal to 16 percent of gross domestic product. Russia and other former Soviet partners last week agreed to give Belarus a $3 billion loan and urged President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s government to sell $7.5 billion of assets to replenish the state’s coffers.

“A ‘91-style meltdown is almost inevitable,’’ said Alexei Moiseev, chief economist at VTB Capital, the investment-banking arm of Russia’s second-largest lender, referring to the country’s economic slump after the collapse of the Soviet Union. ‘‘Rapid privatization is the only way that can help avert complete disaster.”


From Zero Hedge

As always political goals such such as the desire to maintain hold on power by incumbent political leaders abetted by inflationist and socialist policies have contributed to this.

Again from the same Bloomberg article, [bold highlights mine]

Lukashenko reintroduced controls on prices and the currency and re-nationalized some companies and infrastructure after coming to power in July, 1994, on a platform of “market socialism.” The nation’s economy returned to growth in 1996, according to World Bank data.

At the Minsk Refrigerator Plant Co. shop in the capital today, about 20 people queued in drizzling rain to use their rubles to buy fridges. While the shop didn’t open on the day of the devaluation, most of the models in the store already had ‘Sold Out’ stickers on their doors.

“I came on Saturday and it was a nightmare, the store was stormed by people who wanted to spend their rubles because of rumors about the devaluation,” said Nikolay, a 74-year-old pensioner who declined to provide his last name. His entire savings of 6 million rubles now buy one fridge compared with three before the devaluation, he said.

The ruble traded at 5,019.75 per dollar at banks and currency kiosks around the country today, according to the median mid-price of six banks compiled by Bloomberg from the lenders’ websites. That’s 1.8 percent weaker than the official rate.

The devaluation lifted the local price of automobile fuels as much as 24 percent, according to Belneftekhim, an industry group for the country’s oil sector. Last night, about 50 people protested the price increase in the car park of a Minsk hypermarket.

“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.”

Both the IMF and the EBRD have blamed Lukashenko’s spending before last year’s presidential election for much of the economy’s woes. Lending was increased by 38 percent last year and public-sector salaries rose by about 50 percent, the Washington-based IMF said in a March 9 report.

Belarus got a $3.5 billion bailout loan from the IMF during the global credit crisis and the country has more than $2 billion of ruble and dollar debt outstanding. Foreign-currency reserves hit a 1 1/2-year low in March...

The price of children’s diapers has “gone completely insane” in Minsk, said Natalia, a 24-year-old mother also queuing outside the refrigerator store. “I used to buy a pack for 69,000 rubles, now they cost 140,000,” or almost half the 343,260-ruble monthly child benefit paid by the government, she said.

“We have become paupers,” said Tatiana, a 70-year-old woman in the line who also declined to give her last name. “We have been squeezed into a corner by this devaluation.”


Belarus’ skyrocketing inflation from Danske Bank

The previous bailout of the IMF has introduced the moral hazard factor which seems to have compounded this process.

Yet the unfolding episode in Belarus seems like a good example of the phase of the inflation process known to the Austrian school as the crack-up boom

From Ludwig von Mises,

But then, finally, the masses wake up. They become suddenly aware of the fact that inflation is a deliberate policy and will go on endlessly. A breakdown occurs. The crack-up boom appears. Everybody is anxious to swap his money against ‘real’ goods, no matter whether he needs them or not, no matter how much money he has to pay for them.

Within a very short time, within a few weeks or even days, the things which were used as money are no longer used as media of exchange. They become scrap paper. Nobody wants to give away anything against them

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