Government has two options: curb inflation or increase budget revenues
In September 2013, consumer prices went up by 1.7 %.
Inflation has returned. The government attempts to run outlook for prices while simultaneously raising the rates for regulated services. The announced gradual devaluation of the Belarusian ruble could put an end to the only positive trend in 2013 – low inflation rate.
In August 2013 inflation was record-low, 0.1%, which was due to the seasonal decline in vegetable prices. In September petrol prices went up and some service costs, revealing the real picture with inflation in Belarus. Prices went up for postal services, fuel, electricity and hot water. It is worth noting that prices on all these goods and services are regulated by the government.
A paradox has been created: on the one hand, the government is trying to fulfill its inflation forecast for 2013. On the other hand, prices on goods and services, controlled by the government, are going up. Petrol prices went up due to previously increased excise duties on fuel. Electricity tariffs went up following the government’s desire to reduce cross-subsidies in the energy sector. (In Belarus, significant one-off increase in prices causes a spike of citizens’ discontent, while gradual price increases can overcome this negative effect.)
Inflation expectations increased as soon as the government started talking about the Belarusian ruble’s gradual devaluation. The share of imports in consumer goods retail trade is quite high. BYR depreciation and high interest rates on loans are calculated by importers and retail traders in the goods’ final price. Domestic manufacturers of consumer goods, in turn, depend on imported raw materials. The share of imports in Belarusian industry’s material costs is over 50 %. Depreciation of the Belarusian ruble results in higher costs, and ultimately – in higher prices of products. In January - September 2013 inflation was 10%. The inflation forecast for 2013 is 12%. To implement the forecast, inflation in Q4 2013 should not exceed 2%. In Q2 2013 inflation was around 2%, but since then the macro-economic situation has deteriorated.
The government has two options: curb inflation or increase budget revenues. Since most of the projected socio-economic parameters will not have been met by the year-end, the failure to meet the inflation outlook is not that critical.
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.