IMF says Belarus c.account gap "too high"

MINSK, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Belarus must quickly take steps to reduce the current account deficit from last year's estimated 16 percent of gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

The Fund urged the former Soviet republic to tighten monetary policy and stop foreign currency borrowing from local banks by its central bank.

"The current account deficit is too high," an IMF mission, which has completed a visit to Belarus, said in a statement late on Wednesday.

"The government and the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus should take action quickly to bring it down."

The Fund this week urged Belarus to raise interest rates and cut government lending to improve the current account. [ID:nLDE7111QM]

"Our estimate of the current account deficit was about 16 percent of GDP in 2010 and if macroeconomic policies are unchanged we project only a small reduction in the current account deficit in 2011, reflecting an improvement in the terms of oil trade with Russia following the December 2010 agreements."

The Fund said the main causes of the high current account gap were a rapid credit expansion and a "significant increase in budgetary wages and salaries in late 2010".

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko ran for office for the fourth time on December 19 and won in a landslide vote criticised by Western monitors who said the count was flawed.

The weak current account balance could put more pressure on the Belarussian rouble which has weakened by about a third within the last two years and trades at around 3,000 per dollar on a market tightly controlled by the central bank. (Reporting by Andrei Makhovsky; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Ron Askew)


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