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25 March 2020, 18:01

Finance Ministry ready to take measures to keep Belarus' budget stable against COVID-19, oil prices

The Belarusian Finance Ministry. An archive photo
The Belarusian Finance Ministry. An archive photo

MINSK, 25 March (BelTA) – The Belarusian Finance Ministry is ready to take measures to keep the state budget stable against the backdrop of unstable oil prices and the COVID-19 coronavirus situation if necessary, BelTA learned from Belarusian Finance Minister Maksim Yermolovich on 25 March.

The official said: “We are monitoring the situation with the budget and the revenues in Q1 2020. For now the situation is unfolding in a way that keeps us working virtually in normal mode. We are getting enough revenues to finance all the payments scheduled for Q1 2020.”

As for additional expenses brought about by the coronavirus situation, Maksim Yermolovich noted that sufficient resources are available. These additional expenses do not affect the financing of standard budget expenses in any way, he stressed.

“Certainly, the Finance Ministry has an action plan on standby in case budget revenues fall below the initial projections. We've already thought about what budget expenses may be curtailed in such a situation,” Maksim Yermolovich explained. “We are looking into what expenses we may drop without damaging the quality of budget services.”

These cost reductions are unlikely to affect financing, modernization and construction of social facilities. “We may reduce the amount of money spent on administrative personnel, purchases and expenses relating to central and municipal government agencies,” he specified. Certain expenses may be postponed until later.

According to Maksim Yermolovich, they have been able to save some of the money already thanks to warm winter: public sector organizations spent less on utilities.

“A full evaluation of the budget is still ahead of us. We have yet to see the final results of the first quarter, what budget revenues will be available in April, what volume of quarterly payments from the main taxes – the income tax and the VAT – we can get. And then we should make longer-term plans depending on those factors,” the official remarked.

As for the stability of staple budget expenses, including money spent on salaries, the Finance Ministry prepared for the situation last year and the relevant reserves are available.

“Thanks to last year's surplus we are managing the current situation and can use our own resources to fix all cash shortages in the course of executing the budget without borrowing on the home market or from banks. We are handling all the tasks that involve financing budget expenses on time. The Finance Ministry is fulfilling the head of state's instruction to raise public sector salaries to at least 80% of the country's average across the country. And we will do our best in order to unconditionally fulfill this instruction till the end of the year,” Maksim Yermolovich stated.

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