Savings are more profitable than commercial activity
Interbank market credits rates hold steadily at 60%. Sales cost-effectiveness in the economy fell to 9% in August 2012. Profitability from BYR savings accounts exceeds profitability from many types of commercial activity. Long-term conservation of this situation would affect business activity. This imbalance bears high risks for the banking system stability and encourages banks to devalue the national currency.
Last week the banks raised interest rates on savings accounts, both for individuals and for businesses.
Most banks increased interest rates on ruble deposits by 5-10 % last week. Interest rates on BYR savings accounts for the population reached 49% per annum. For legal persons, short-term BYR deposits (10 days) were available at 50% and higher. Individual clients were offered special deposit terms for their free cash.
Simultaneously, the return on sales in the economy fell from 11% in July 2012 to 9% in August. 90.4% of the enterprises remain profitable, of which 40.5% have profitability margin 0% to 5%.
However, placing deposits and business production or trading activity are incomparable in terms of risks and costs. Production or trade requires numerous employees, office and warehouse premises, accounting, etc. Placing deposits and receiving profit from interest rates involves minimal costs and better guaranteed results, if national currency devaluation pace does not increase. There were no bankruptcies among Belarusian banks for a while. And the absence of checks by tax and other controlling authorities implies a guaranteed outcome when placing money on deposit.
Thus, with these interest rates, business activity in Belarus only makes sense for a small number of highly profitable enterprises. These include, for instance, potash production and sales, pipeline transport, and some other. In other cases, bigger profits can be made without any activity by placing funds on savings accounts. These rates in the credit market drag liquidity away from the currency market, but economic activity becomes unreasonable.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.