Government drafted a list of enterprises for privatization worth USD 2.5 billion
Without changing the fundamental approaches to privatization, its results in 2012 will not much differ from 2011. In 2012 there will be one or two major deals in favour of the Russian capital, and a couple of dozens in favour of domestic investors.
The Belarusian Government has drafted a list of companies worth at least $ 2.5 billion to be sold this year in order to fulfill its commitments vis-?-vis the ACF of the EurAsEC. In the near future the list will be submitted to Alexander Lukashenko. The Belarusian authorities plan to put on sale in 2012 state shares in 133 enterprises including 83, which were not sold in 2011. In 2013 22 companies will be put on sale: the list of 13 included in a three-year privatization plan was amended with nine new companies.
During an enlarged meeting of the collegium of the Ministry of Industry on 2 February Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Rumas criticized the work of the State Property Committee and other government agencies, both regarding the pace of privatization and its management by the governmental agencies. Rumas said, the results of the sales of state owned stakes in 2011 (state owned shares of 34 enterprises were sold) were “disappointing, and even disastrous”. Criticism of the Deputy Prime Minister is both legitimate and routine, designed for external consumption: Lukashenko has the full authority in terms of decision making regarding large property privatization.
Foreign investors will be put off by the image of the country’s authorities, poor business climate, as well as by significantly inflated prices of assets.
The companies not sold in 2011 will face similar fate in 2012 by the virtue of their general unattractiveness to investors and inflated prices for their assets. At the same time, under the requirement of compulsory privatization worth USD 2.5 billion, Russia will once again buy the best assets. Most likely, the pool of shares to be sold will include shares in oil refineries and petrochemicals, banks and telecommunication enterprises. Chances of a sale of shares of MAZ or Belaruskali seem low.
Since USD 2.5 billion is not enough to pay the debts while maintaining internal macroeconomic balance, and the new loans in 2012 are hardly probable, internal privatization will prevail. Large enterprises and chains will buy small business in the real and retail sectors. Either Russian or nomenclature capital will be behind these investors. In any case, with the redistribution of property internal tensions within the elites, in particular in the regions where the executive branch “fights” against the security forces, will increase.
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.