Amid loyalty of senior management security forces become less sensitive to public criticism

January 09, 2017 10:07
www.nn.by

Increased police savagery and incidents with the participation of security officials could imply that the law enforcement system is growing out of balance. The law enforcement agencies have become less sensitive to public criticism and public opinion, which, apparently, is due to the support from the Belarusian leadership. Amid growing tension in Belarusian society, the authorities lack the resources and political will to reform the law enforcement in order to improve their public image.

A man, shot twice by a policeman on January 1st, 2016, in Minsk, was detained.

Amid reduced repressions against ‘titular’ opposition, according to media reports, the law enforcement representatives have become more violent in relation to ordinary citizens. The law enforcement stopped the clamp down on unauthorised opposition activity and repressions against party activists. Meanwhile, demonstratively tough actions by some law enforcement officials in relation to ordinary citizens keep the human rights community and society as a whole, tense.

The role and political weight of the law enforcement in the Belarusian society has increased as the state has fewer resources to buy the loyalty of the population due to the lingering social and economic crisis. This may lead to an increase in conflicts between the law enforcement and citizens, which was typical of the 1990s when public and state institutions were weak.

That said, yet some time ago, the authorities have restricted opportunities to measure the confidence level in the law enforcement authorities by destroying independent sociology. Apparently, amid falling well-being of the population and growing tension in society, the authorities are willing to sacrifice some trust in the law enforcement bodies.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to perceive a possible criticism in the media of the security forces’ actions against citizens as an information attack on public institutions.

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Economic growth in Belarus may be delayed until 2018
January 23, 2017 11:13
Image: Novy Chas

The Belarusian economy was shrinking for the second year in a row, in 2016, by 2.6%. Before 2015, the Belarusian economy was growing for 18 consecutive years. In order to stop the economic slump, Belarus needs a favourable international market situation and to settle all trade disputes with Russia. The Belarusian economy is unlikely to recover before 2018.

According to the preliminary reports, in 2016, Belarus had a 2.6% GDP decline. The Belarusian economy was shrinking for the second year in a row – a 3.8% decline in 2015. Most economic indicators in 2016, except in agriculture, had negative values. Wholesale trade had the most negative impact on GDP due to falling exports of potash fertilizers and petrochemicals, as well as construction, due to reduced investment in fixed assets by enterprises and decreased housing construction volumes.

In 1996-2011, the Belarusian economy was growing most rapidly, average GDP growth rate was 6.9% per year. In 2011, amid emission injections in the economy, disproportionate growth of wages against the background of low productivity and significant financial aid for loss-making agricultural, construction and industrial enterprises, the Belarusian rouble depreciated by three times. The absence of economic reforms and significant relative weight of state in the economy amid deteriorating external economic environment led to a sharp economic slowdown – circa 1% per year in 2012-2014; the slowdown was followed by the recession, caused by a slump in the prices for basic exports from Belarus and cuts in soft loans issued to maintain production volumes.

Belarus’ budget for 2017 is based on anticipated 0.2% growth. The expected decrease in the construction volume is circa 17% in 2017, which is unlikely to allow industrial growth with the renewal of fixed assets by legal entities. Even if wages grow, they will be offset by the 15% increase in utility tariffs by late 2017. Wholesale trade is largely dependent on the potash market situation and the oil processing volume at the Belarusian refineries. In view of the planned reduction in Russian oil supply in Q1 2017 to 4 million tons, wholesale growth is only possible provided the potash market situation improves. In late 2016, engineering output increased significantly, but amid the trade conflict with Russia, she may prioritise purchases from domestic manufacturers. In the given circumstances, Belarus’ GDP would only grow in 2017, provided the Russo-Belarusian dispute over energy supplies was fully resolved, Russia removed barriers for Belarusian exports and the potash market situation improved. That said, Belarus’ GDP in 2017 is likely to decrease by 0.5% - 1% and is likely to be followed by an attempt to overcome the recession in 2018.

The Belarusian economy has been in recession for two consecutive years. Amid anticipated decline in retail trade, construction and unresolved dispute over energy supplies from Russia, economic recession is likely to persist in 2017 and the economic recovery may be postponed until 2018.