Growth of external debt
Gross foreign debt of Belarus on 1 April 2011 reached USD 31711.8 million, increasing by USD 3221.2 million (11.3%) from the beginning of the year. External debt of public administration grew by USD 939.7 million (9.3%) to USD 10997.6 million.
Foreign debt of the monetary institutions amounted to USD 1713.5 million, decreasing in the first quarter by USD 141.8 million (7.6%). Debt of commercial banks increased by USD 1080.5 million (18.8%) to USD 6832.6 million. External debt of other sectors amounted to USD 11309.9 million, increasing by USD 1310.3 million (13.1%).
Direct investment increased by USD 32.5 million (3.9%) to USD 858.2 million.
External debt is growing and will grow, creating an issue for the government regarding debt management. In 2011 debt repayment were not particularly heavy however in 2012 debt service will exceed $ 2 billion. Accordingly, the authorities have two options: continue building a financial pyramid where the repayment of old debts comes from new ones or start privatization of strategic assets.
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.