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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belarus Seeks Aid for Reform

WASHINGTON -- Belarus has appealed for international support for a far-reaching program to stabilize and transform its shaky economy and plug an estimated $720 million foreign financing gap next year.

"We are seeking financial and political support," Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich said ahead of a crucial meeting of the country's aid donors Thursday.

Speaking through an interpreter, Myasnikovich said Belarus had already won the backing of senior staff from the International Monetary Fund for its plan to sharply reduce inflation and overhaul its battered economy.

The IMF's board is slated to meet on Dec. 21 to translate that backing into hard cash. Up for a consideration: a $254 million "standby" loan and a $102 million "Systemic Transformation Facility" credit for the country.

Belarus' Central Bank chairman Stanislav Bogdankevich said Minsk is also interested in obtaining additional financing for a special fund to stabilize its currency.

Myasnikovich, who met IMF officials Tuesday, takes his case to the World Bank on Wednesday, where he will discuss a number of possible credits, including a stabilization loan and money to promote private sector development.

To pave the way for Thursday's meeting of aid donors, Myasnikovich said Belarus had cleared its debt arrears to Germany and the European Union and struck an agreement to regularize debt payments to Russia.

Minsk is also pressing ahead with an ambitious economic program which it hopes will help win international support, but also recognizes it is in its own best interests, he said.

The program, worked out in conjunction with IMF staff, envisages a steep reduction in inflation from a monthly rate of some 50 percent in the middle of this year to one percent or less by the end of next year.

Under the plan, Minsk will keep tight control of its budget, limiting the deficit next year to the equivalent of four percent of the economy's gross domestic product.

The government is also acting to overhaul and restructure its economy to help attract foreign investment into the country and its newly-privatized companies, Myasnikovich said.

He said the program has the backing of parliament and the government, including President Alexander Lukashenko, who reportedly had once expressed some misgivings about it.