Belarus Hyperinflation Update: Food Runs Out As Friendly Foreigners Take Advantage Of The "Favorable" Exchange Rate Arb
Yesterday we had the first case study of what happens in a hyperinflation, when we noted that the local central bank had just hiked interest rates from 22% to 27%. Net result for the economy? Zero. Today is case study #2 where we learn what happens to an imploding economy which happens to be surrounded by friendly neighbors who just happen to find themselves in a massive arbitrage courtesy of a currency that is losing multiples of its value on a monthly if not daily basis. Per Bloomberg: "Belarus’s supermarkets are running out of meat as Russians take advantage of a currency crisis that a devaluation and the world’s highest borrowing costs have failed to stem. “All meat has gone to Russia,” Alexander Andreyevich, an 82-year-old former tractor-plant worker, said Aug. 25 in Minsk, the capital. “My relatives near the Russian border called me a few days ago and said the shops are empty."..."Private stall owners simply go and buy meat from state- owned vendors and sell it a couple of steps away for a hefty profit,"Deputy Agriculture and Food Minister Vasily Pavlovsky told reporters in Minsk Aug. 24. The government banned individuals in June from taking basic consumer goods such as home appliances, food and gasoline out of the country. Russians, buoyed by the removal of border checkpoints July 1 as part of a customs union, have circumvented the restrictions." Funny- if the locals had preserved their purchasing power by holding their money in gold, they would not find themselves in a position where those who still have a stable fiat exchange rate (for the time being) can literally steal products from under their noses for a paltry sum as sellers scramble to converts products into some currency before it is devalued even more tomorrow.
More from Bloomberg:
The crisis has sparked protests as Belarusians vent their anger at President Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed Europe’s last dictator by the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. While the authorities have sought to control food costs to quell public discontent, buyers from neighboring Russia have pushed meat prices higher.
Belarus will allow the ruble to float from mid-September and will remove restrictions on depositors seeking to exchange local currency for dollars and euros, Lukashenko said yesterday.
“The Belarusian ruble’s exchange rate will be determined by supply and demand, as with any other commodity,” he told the government and central bank, according to the Belta news service. “We will not support the exchange rate artificially.”
What happens then is simple: revolution, as the currency will collapse into a hyperinflationary vortex. We fully expect the exchange rate a year from today to be several million percent higher, as the ghost of Weimar and all other failed Keynesian experiments moves in to haunt this former Soviet satellite country.
It gets worse:
As well as meat, services are also attracting Russians, who make up one in two visitors at the ‘Lode’ spa 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Minsk and prefer luxury suites, a representative of the resort, Natalya Varvantseva, said Aug. 26 by phone.
Many of them pay with Russian rubles or dollars, the scarcity of which has pushed black-market exchange rates far below the central bank’s official 5,061 rubles per dollar.
The unofficial rate slipped to 9,900 by Aug. 25, according to a survey of companies offering foreign currency conducted by Infobank.by, a financial-news website. Prokopovi.ch, a service that matches buyers and sellers of foreign currency online, quoted 8,842 rubles per dollar yesterday.
And again, the case for gold:
The only legal way for citizens to obtain foreign currency is by waiting at licensed exchange booths, where queues often exceed a hundred and the names of people who have left their details on previous visits are called daily.
If only these people had known in advance what happens when a deranged Keynesian madman is in charge of it all... Oh well, they will learn now.