Belarus and Chinese Exim Bank signed an agreement on a number of lending projects worth over $ 1 billion. In particular, they signed an agreement to provide consumer credit of USD 654 million to build a plant for the production of bleached sulphate cellulose at JSC “Svetlogorsk”.
A loan agreement for USD 340 million was also signed to finance the reconstruction of the road M-5/E271 Minsk-Gomel. Also, an agreement was concluded regarding the project “Electrification of Gomel-Zhlobin-Osipovichi and Zhlobin-Kalinkovichi” for USD $ 64 million (first stage).
Previously adopted plans and programs regarding modernization of enterprises and infrastructure needed to be implemented to an extent. In this regard, the Chinese loans are fairly accessible. However, besides positive aspects, there are negative. It increases the total credit debt and external debt of enterprises and the government. Loans need to be repaid, for instance, “Belenergo”, received USD 3 billion of Chinese loans in the past, now it has a very big problem repaying it. The dependency on Chinese loans and China in particular is increasing. In addition, Chinese loans mean that 80-90% of the money will return to Chinese companies. Also, experts often complain about the lack of transparency of transactions, as well as about high (European level) costs for Chinese quality of services.
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.