Belarus intensifies cooperation with China

April 22, 2016 18:00

Chinese government decided to provide Belarus with a soft loan of USD 1 billion, as well as with Yuan 70 million of a gratuitous grant. Chinese money can be spent on the modernization of factories and infrastructure, for implementation of a multi-vector privatization policy and to demonstrate competition.

A Chinese governmental delegation visited Belarus. As a result of the visit a series of agreements on the establishment of Sino-Belarus industrial park, on economic and technological cooperation have been signed by the governments, as well as a framework agreement between the Government of Belarus and the Export-Import Bank of China on financial cooperation in the area of privatization and attracting Chinese investments to the Republic of Belarus in 2011-2012, inter alia, a number of investment agreements.

The Chinese government decided to provide Belarus with a soft loan of USD 1 billion for implementation of the existing joint projects, as well as with Yuan 70 million of a gratuitous grant.

Comment

The authorities are trying to diversify portfolio of potential investors in the privatization process.

Belarus needs the loan money for the modernization of industry and infrastructure. Therefore regardless of the fact that the Chinese loans are conditional their importance should not be underestimated. The authorities are trying to diversify portfolio of potential investors in the privatization process. Regardless of everything, Russian investors are trying to bring down the prices for the Belarus assets, buying small objects in the regions. China may become a competitor, allowing keeping the prices up. However, the dependence of the Belarusian leadership on Russia is too significant, challenging the efficiency of the Eastern dimension.

 

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The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.

In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.

The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.

In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.

Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.