Belarusians Withdraw Foreign Currency Deposits from Banks

28.03.2011 14:40
Архив Редакция

According to some banking sources, the number of customers of the Belarusian banks, willing to withdraw deposits in foreign currency, has increased dramatically. Experts believe that such activity of the population, triggered by the unstable situation with the currency on the domestic market, may cause serious problems for banks with the deposits' return.

According to the official statistics, up to date, foreign currency deposits have been increasing steadily. Thus, individual deposits in foreign currency have risen by 7.1% for the first two months of 2011. Citizens have kept in the bank $4.7 billion by March 1 — more than gold and currency reserves of Belarus (the amount of GCR was slightly more than $4 billion on March 1 — Telegraf).

Now banks are giving customers foreign currency deposit accounts without any problems. For example, Belarusbank and BPS-Bank return currency in one or two days after the request, while it takes five days for other banks, «Belarusian News.»

Despite the fact that currently there are no challenges with contributions, experts predict that the flow of depositors, willing to withdraw money from the account, will grow. Accordingly, the situation for the banks will continue to deteriorate.

Leadership and representatives of the banking sector explain the situation with a deficit of currency in the domestic market by financial illiteracy of ordinary citizens, succumbed to the panic, created by the provocateurs.

However, the forex market is really uncertain, as Telegraf previously reported; currency exchange points often lack dollars. In addition, the National Bank took and then canceled the decision to sell the currency to banks for currency exchange offices within one week.

Last week most of the banks imposed restrictions on currency transactions by plastic cards. For example, Priorbank has ruled out the possibility to transfer funds from the ruble cards into the currency ones, as well as has called off contributions through internet banking. BelSwissBank has informed customers that «all operations on plastic cards in Belarusian rubles can be carried out exclusively in Belarusian rubles due to changes in legislative regulation of the foreign exchange market.»

It’s Unlikely to Frost National Bank Deposits, Experts

Some experts believe in the possible freezing of foreign currency deposits. However, others believe that this is unlikely. «National Bank’s decision to freeze foreign currency deposits is not an economic but political decision. Such a decision would be tantamount to a complete loss of reputation of the banking system among the population, and it is difficult even to imagine what would follow afterwards,» explained analyst Ekaterina Smirnova.

Such a solution, she said, is very risky. «Even our tolerant Belarusian people will respond to it seriously. I think this is an extreme measure, which is unlikely to be taken. There is only a delay in settlements with customer, required their deposits, although there have been no such factors so far,» added Ekaterina Smirnova.

Expert opinion is shared by the former chairman of the National Bank Stanislav Bogdankevich. «To freeze foreign currency deposits means to acknowledge failure of the economic and monetary policy. I do not think the authorities will go for it,» he said.

Meanwhile, some commercial banks have raised rates on foreign currency deposits.