Market to determine the initial price of assets
On March 29, the Government of Belarus issued a regulation No 285 legitimizing some requirements and approaches of Lukashenko to the sale of the state-owned assets, which essentially come down to maximization of profits from privatization.
The document contains several new and fundamentally important clauses. Firstly, new rules allow all joint stock companies to set the initial selling price of shares by their market, not book value. Previously, the initial price of shares was determined by the market only for banks and joint-stock companies owing land in Minsk and regional centers.
Secondly, it is regulated that the initial market price should be the highest. “The highest” implies that the authorities are preparing for numerous assessments of the market value of a given asset and want to protect their own assessments. That is, for instance, the Belarusian market value of an asset could be well above the market value as assessed by an international company and the initial selling price of shares will be tied to the highest assessment, even though it was not properly justified.
Thirdly, the regulation stipulates that the market price may not be below its par value. In other words, the Belarusian authorities refuse to apply special rules to companies with a number of nominal assets with low market value due to these assets being obsolete, unneeded, loss making or in debt, etc.
Fourthly, the new rules also require all companies to apply novelty of the past year – adjusting the initial price by price index for producers of industrial goods for technical and industrial purposes. That is, while defining the initial, highest, but not below par, price of a stock as of January 1st of the current fiscal period (or the first day of the month following the month of additional issue of shares), at the time of purchase (auction), the price should be increased in the future with adjustment for inflation.
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.