Economy driver runs into trouble
In early 2013, the construction industry was considered one of the economy’s main drivers. In late 2013, it became clear that construction plans would not be implemented: the entire industry was shaken by scandals and became the main generator of problem debts in the economy. The construction industry needs to be reformed, but high corruption levels may hamper any positive changes.
In early 2013, when industrial production had been reduced, hopes were high that the construction industry would become one of the main economy’s drivers. In January – October 2013 the value added of construction increased by 5.4% over the same period in 2012 and allowed to increase GDP by only 0.3 pp from 1.1 pp GDP growth.
In January – October 2013 the construction plan was implemented only by 64.3% of the annual plan. Quality of the commissioned housing received considerable criticism. Statistical data falsifications have resulted in several criminal cases. Today 19 criminal cases are pending against various construction companies. The largest housing construction company has virtually suspended its activities due to non-payments by contractors. Cement plants, mining companies are also experiencing payment problems due to insufficient funding within government construction programmes.
The construction industry is suffering from non-transparent price-formation schemes, and from overly complicated administrative procedures. Meanwhile, improved transparency of the construction industry is at odds with the interests of corrupt officials, who do not want to lose a very profitable ‘income’ source. As a result, all efforts aimed at improving the situation in the construction industry could be in vain.
Thus, the construction industry has failed to become the economy’s driver and to help it out of the crisis. Some improvements in the construction industry are due to the desire to prevent social tensions, but on a larger scale, the ruling group is not interested in substantial changes and will continue to sabotage all possible steps to improve transparency in construction.
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.