Control over economy could be relaxed but arbitrary rule would retain in Belarus
By weakening control over the economic activity, expanding self-employment opportunities and attempting to focus on prevention rather than punishment for economic violations, the state is likely to create opportunities for arbitrary behaviour of officials vis-à-vis economic entities.
To boost employment, the Belarusian authorities have expanded the list of activities which could be carried out without the formal registration and subjected only to a single tax paid once a year. Amid the state’s reduced capacity to provide employment, weaker control over economic activity is a rational choice. The presidential decree simplifying business rules in rural areas and small settlements has a similar goal. However, the single tax size varies greatly depending on the activity type, there are no unambiguous criteria regarding applicability of the new rules, or the clarity about the liability of the state bodies for arbitrary decisions, which could nip in the bud the growth in the economic activity in rural areas.
The state is even more inconsistent in reducing the pressure on business. For instance, the newly established institute of tax consultancy has raised concerns in the business community that it would become an obligatory service, same as e-declarations and subscription to the Tax Ministry publications, and is unlikely to protect business from arbitrariness of the tax authorities. The president’s instructions given to State Control Committee Head Anfimov during the recent discussion on restricting powers of controllers, have been contradictory, too. The president has requested to focus on prevention of economic violations, rather than the punishment, to introduce responsibility for arbitrary inspections and violations during their conduct, and in the meanwhile expressed fears of losing control over the economy and encouraged to boost already high influence of the power block on business.
Yet, so far, the state has been unsuccessful in relaxing the administrative pressure on the economy. Moreover, state bodies are not in a position to curb each other on this issue. A reduction in administrative procedures often leads to the invention of new ones.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.