Lukashenko: Any enterprise can be privatized in Belarus, the only question is price
On Friday, Lukashenko held a meeting on privatization. According to him, \"Any company can be privatized. Any, without exception.\" He stressed that there would not be a wholesale privatization of the country. “If it is necessary to the state, it will have the targeted nature\", said Lukashenko.
Loans taken out by Belarus, and the inability to attract cheap credit resources (recently Belarusbank has attracted a syndicated loan of USD 130 million for the year at 9% per annum) for the necessary modernization and promoting economic growth and exports, have forced the government to raise the issue of privatization. Privatization, in one way or another, is on the agenda of the requirements of the AF EEC and negotiations with the IMF, as well as increased cooperation with the World Bank, EBRD, etc. All this is forcing the government to raise the issues of privatization, causing hysteria with Lukashenko.
Questions of maintaining power for Lukashenko are inextricably linked to issues of control over Belarus’ main assets, to preserve a dominant role in the economy. Hence the angry and abusive (he estimated the welfare of his ministers, \"a thousand bricks\") attacks against the privatization of lobbying the government and the governors: \"If you want to please the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, America, Russia or someone else, saying that we will sell something, then it’s not with me and not under me.\"
Once again, he has publicly confirmed the thesis that privatization should be solved only with him. And it is only after his approval that any company may be privatized, no matter whether it is a joint-stock company, has all the necessary documents, etc. The key issue to Lukashenko is the question of price. However, this is such a position which makes all the Belarusian assets cheaper in the long run. First, privatization, even pointed, will be of an emergency nature, because otherwise it is impossible to pay off debts. Second, with the current image of the country, Belarusian enterprises will only interest Russian investors, who can wait, apply pressure and reduce prices. Third, the economic crisis continues in the world together with the reduction of budget deficits, forcing many governments to privatize the assets, previously considered to be strategic. The crisis among the elite and in Lukashenko’s entourage has led to the expansion of the government, which weakens the positions of both sides.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.