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Belarusian Review

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Belarusian Currency: Problems and Perspectives

- was the title of the international economic conference held in Miensk on November 30, 2003. It was attended by leading economists of the country - both the representatives of independent research centers as well as those employed by the government.

The event took place due to efforts of the Center Supolnasc ( Togetherness) and the Konrad Adenauer Fund ; it became the next link in the series of monthly economic round tables, staged by the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) since 2001.
Vincuk Viacorka, chairman of the BPF, remarked in his welcoming address: " Due to the acutely topical nature of the conference theme the meting hall is crowded today. I cannot but recall that it was the BPF that at the end of 1980s first spoke up of the necessity of introducing a Belarusian national currency; back then few considered this idea realistic. Yet today Belarusian currency is a reality - we know its history. Today Belarusian money faces new challenges in the form of proposed new currency unions.
... Economics is a humanitarian science: it studies man and his constant need to choose - under conditions of temptation and hope, threat and opportunity. In assessing the currency union proposals one should consider not only the bare economic factors, but also their context: human and national values, and even the choice of systems. Therefore, today's discussion will be an emotional one. However, I appeal to the participants to speak, as the Romans taught: sine ira et studio, - without anger nor bias,? but in thinking only about welfare of Belarus and its people."
The discussion was moderated by the economist Valery Daskievic, who stressed in his lecture the possible effects of currency integration on enterprises and family households in Belarus.
German participants, Profs. Elke Thiel and Oda Von Breitenstein spoke about the issues of transition to the euro in Germany, and Poland (in the future). Financial and credit trends in Belarus and perspectives of a currency integration were covered in lectures by the department managers of the National Bank, Alaksandar Labanau and Jury Ulaskin. The ex-chairman of the National Bank, Prof. Stanislau Bahdankievic presented: "Are there alternatives ? National interests"
Lectures by Garegin Vardevanian (Economic Research Institute of the Ministry of Economics) and Uladzimir Usoski (Center for Economic and Social Research at the European Humanities University) provoked heated polemics. They enumerated the threats to the economy and statehood of Belarus, that might result from the transition to the currency of the eastern neighbor.
Mr. Viacorka stated after the conference: "It became clear that all leading Belarusian economists - representing state as well as non-state structures - are in favor of deep reforms, necessary for saving our economy. We also discovered that there exists a split between our professionals. Some of them - a minority - feel that a transition to the Russian ruble might help the reforms, while admitting that such a transition is not likely in the near future. However, most of the professionals, regardless of their official status support the strengthening of the Belarusian national currency as the basic instrument for implementation of the reforms, and as the basic attribute of Belarus' statehood. The argument goes: Let us save and strengthen the Belarusian monetary unit, and then begin discussing crossing the next bridge into the euro zone. I will echo the participants of the discussion: it is absolutely incorrect to compare a transition to the currency of a foreign country (Russian ruble) with the participation in the creation of a common currency (euro)".

Source: BPF Press group, Dec. 2, 2003

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 15, No 4
Copyright 2003 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.

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