IMF: Belarus' Economic Challenges More Difficult

By Meena Thiruvengadam Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The economic situation in Belarus has worsened since the eastern European country signed a $2.46 billion loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund in January, the IMF said Tuesday.

"The fall in demand in major trading partners, including Russia, has hit Belarus's exporters hard," Chris Jarvis, the IMF's Belarus mission chief, said in a statement following a weeklong visit to Minsk.

Additionally, "The devaluation of the ruble on January 2 and the peg to a basket of currencies have reduced Belarus's vulnerability to the external shocks it is facing," Jarvis said.

The IMF already has disbursed $800 million in loans to Belarus. The remainder is scheduled to be disbursed by early 2010.

"We believe that with the right policies Belarus can meet the challenges it faces," Jarvis said.

IMF officials are scheduled to return to Belarus in late April or early May.



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