Belarusian state will raise housing tariffs continuously, but moderately
Chairman of the Belarusian State Control Committee Anfimov said that before March 1st, housing and communal services tariffs would be recalculated downwards. In January 2016, compared with December 2015, subsidised heating and hot water tariffs went up by 33.3%, cold water and sanitation - by 3.54 times, heating and hot water tariffs by 83.4%, and electricity - by 29.5%. The significant increase in housing and communal services tariffs has caused a negative reaction of the population and increased tension in society. The president had to intervene and initiate criminal prosecution of 13 officials in order to relieve tension among the population and step-up discipline in the state apparatus, particularly after the release of some convicts - former officials. It should be noted, that a substantial increase in housing and communal services tariffs was made against the background of the talks with the IMF and the EFCD over loans, and their requirement to reform housing and communal services. The president’s statement about recalculating and reducing the tariffs has actually coincided with the EFCD decision to grant a loan. The authorities are likely to use the traditional approach and increase tariffs below the required level. This has already happened several times: officials talked about a significant increase in tariffs (or introduction of a new charges and taxes), but then reduced their appetite and increased tariffs only by a small amount (or introduced only one tax).
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.