Belarus makes concessions to the Russian dairy lobby
The Russian National Union of Milk Producers (“Soyuzmoloko”) on February, 20 published an open letter addressed to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and the Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs of Belarus Mikhail Rusoy requesting to regulate the relationships between the two countries in the diary market immediately. “Soyuzmoloko” informed that the selling prices recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture of Belarus for the Russian market were “disastrous”.
“Soyuzmoloko” proposed to delete full cream milk powder and whey powder from the list of dairy products supplied by the Belarusian enterprises to Russia until the end of 2012, making appropriate adjustments to the balance of trade. The organization also believes it is necessary to increase the indicative prices for imports of butter and skimmed milk from Belarus. Regardless of such obvious protectionism, Belarus did not step into the battle field. On 21 February the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Elena Skrynnik reported, that the proposed foods could not be removed from the balance due to the fact that the principal issues of cooperation within the Customs Union have already been agreed upon. However, Belarus confirmed its readiness to adjust the indicative prices and supply volumes of dairy products to the Russian market immediately in order to prevent oversupply and dumping of the market.
Therefore the emerging conflict was immediately extinguished by loyalty of the Belarusian side. Belarus has demonstrated its willingness to have a dialogue. It implies that the leadership is not ready for a following round of trade wars, thereby confirming weak positions of Belarus in the CES and in the CU and its dependence on the goodwill of the Russian leadership.
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.