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Belarus central bank sells off its office furniture

Published: October 19, 2011
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Source: UK Guardian

As an exercise in monetary policy, it's probably not the sort of thing that would be advocated by John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman. Amid a disastrous economic crisis, the Belarus central bank has attempted to raise capital by selling off used office equipment and furniture.

Five hundred items, including 30 paper bags, 10 safes, two suitcases, a sugar bowl and a used Japanese Dictaphone, were put up for sale in an auction that it was hoped would raise around £10,000.

Prices were eminently reasonable – as might be expected in a country where the average wage is around $200 (£125) per month.

The cheapest article was a single cardboard box, priced at 480 rubles (less than 1p), while a used television was offered for 417,958 rubles (£46). The most expensive item was a tapestry decorated with the medieval city of Pinsk, which was priced at a whopping 37.2m rubles (£4,100).

Amid a crippling financial crisis, Belarus is seeking a $7bn (£4.4bn) emergency bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The value of its currency has fallen sharply in recent months, while inflation has skyrocketed to over 40%, fuelling discontent with the regime of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Europe and the US have imposed sanctions on the country's leadership, renewed after the state violently put down protests following elections late last year. The country has turned to loans from Russia and China instead.

Bank officials insisted that the sale had nothing to do with dwindling funds.

"This has no relation to the economic situation in Belarus," said Aleksander Timoshenko, the bank's spokesman. "These are not sums that can affect anything. This is about the effective use of property. If property isn't used, we're not going to throw it in a rubbish dump," he said.

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