The Belarusian government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are almost ready to sign a $3bn, three-year loan programme, Economy Minister Vladimir Zinovsky said on November 19 on the last day of an IMF mission visit to the republic.
"Considerable progress has been achieved. We hope the programme with the IMF will be signed," Zinovsky said in comments reported by BelTA news agency. "A meeting with the Belarusian prime minister will be held today, I think it will give a finishing touch to the document. We are close to signing the programme, if nothing has changed overnight, because the negotiations are intensive, almost 14-16 hours per day," the minister added after a series of closed meetings between the sides.
A staff team of the IMF arrived on November 9 to discuss terms for the credit sought by the government, the second major credit received by Belarus since it became an IMF member in 1992 after gaining independence from the Soviet Union.
Zinovsky's comments came two days after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the country would reject any IMF requirement under the sought credit to strip away much of the social protection measures it has retained since the Soviet era.
Belarus has been hunting for crucial injections of funds this year as its external state debt climbed to $12bn. The republic's reserves are around $5bn, prompting it to seek credits from both the IMF and the Russia-led Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation and Development (EFSD).
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