Budget surplus may not last until year-end
According to the Finance Ministry, in H1 2016, the plan for income tax on profit was implemented by 37% and for revenues from foreign economic activity by 48% of the planned annual volume. The overall budget surplus in H1 2016 totalled BYN 1 billion or 2% of GDP and was achieved due to containment of non-priority government spending. The state is likely to increase expenditure on stimulating economic growth, cuts in oil supply in July and August are likely to lead to an increase in the backlog between revenues from foreign economic activity and the projected targets for 2016 and the state is likely to require additional funds to repay public debt. The planned wage growth in education is likely to increase budget expenditure on social needs and is likely to be funded from the existing budget surplus. In H2 2016, budget deficit is likely to occur and current budget surplus is unlikely to cover all projected costs without further austerity measures.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.