Belarus: Belarusian ruble drops amid emerging markets selloff and further liberalization of exchange rate regime
The Belarusian ruble came under significant pressure in August, falling to the lowest level seen in over two years at the end of the month. On 31 August, the ruble ended the day at 2.09 per USD, weakening 4.8% from the same day of the previous month. Moreover, the currency was down 5.7% on a year-to-date basis and down 8.3% on an annual basis.
The depreciation in August followed the broad selloff in emerging market assets as investors grew increasingly worried about the risk of global contagion amid ongoing market turmoil in Turkey and Argentina. In addition, the escalation of trade tensions between the U.S. and China, as well as fresh U.S. sanctions on Russia—Belarus’ closest political ally and trade partner—generated further downside pressures on the Belarusian ruble.
In the domestic arena, in a move to further liberalize the foreign exchange rate regime in Belarus, the government abolished the requirement for the mandatory sale of foreign currency proceeds in the domestic foreign exchange market effective 2 August. The decision followed several reductions in the amount of foreign exchange that businesses were required to sell over the last two years and was aimed at stimulating business activity as well as improving the mechanisms for the functioning of domestic foreign exchange. This has likely weighed on the ruble in recent weeks.