S&P Affirms Belarus' Rating, Negative Outlook

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Standard & Poor's Corp. affirmed Belarus' sovereign credit rating with a negative outlook Tuesday, saying the country's external position had continued to weaken in 2009.

"The ratings on Belarus are constrained by our view of its weak and deteriorating external liquidity, owing to very high current account deficits and repeated price shocks on still-subsidized energy imports from Russia," said S&P credit analyst Kai Stukenbrock.

Furthermore, Belarus' ratings are constrained by the economy's structural rigidities, which impede faster improvements in its external competitiveness, the agency said.

S&P affirmed Belarus' B+ foreign currency and BB local currency long-term sovereign issuer credit ratings.

The rating agency said it expects the country's current-account deficit to narrow gradually in 2010 to 11% of GDP, after widening to 13.1% of GDP last year.

Led since 1994 by Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus has a Soviet-style, centrally controlled economy with strong ties to Russia.

During the economic crisis, it was forced to seek financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, which in turn called for changes in the exchange rate regime, a step-up in structural reforms and the pursuit of a balanced budget.

As of December 2009, total disbursement under the $3.52 billion program totaled $2.88 billion.

-By Clare Connaghan, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 (0) 20 7842 9496;


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