. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko: Control of Banks Nearly Complete

MINSK -- Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko said the state would be in full charge of the country's economy and predicted that moves to bring banks under government control would soon be complete.

Lukashenko dismissed complaints by Western financial institutions that market reforms were too slow and that his intervention threatened the banking system.

"We have not bargained away our national wealth -- our factories, agriculture and science," he told war veterans on the eve of the 51st anniversary of the end of World War II Wednesday. "The state and only the state will run our country, our economy. The formation of a new banking system is being completed, fully controlled by and answerable to central authorities."

Lukashenko has said he plans to increase state control over six big commercial banks but has denied the scheme is tantamount to nationalization.

The International Monetary Fund has frozen disbursement of most of a $300 million standby credit to Belarus agreed to last year. Government ministers said an IMF mission in Minsk this week told them the IMF would oppose nationalization of commercial banks.

Lukashenko effectively halted Belarus' already slow privatization program in February with an order said by his aides to be aimed at rooting out tax evasion and corruption. Less than 10 percent of Belarussian firms are privatized.