New export support and development programme may merely address old problems
The Government on August 1st, 2016 approved new Export Support and Development Programme for 2016 - 2020. The programme envisages to "reduce dependence on traditional export products and markets”, as well as "product diversification" in order to increase exports by circa 21-25%, and the share of exported industrial products to 65% of production volumes. In addition, it aspires to increase the export segment of "new promising markets" up to 10%, and divide exports equally between the EU market, the EEU, and other regions. However, amid economic recession and the preservation of the Belarusian economic model, these plans are unlikely to be implemented. The government is likely to focus on preserving Belarus’ positions on the usual markets (Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia) for traditional industrial and agricultural products, which will continue to dominate and which are extremely difficult to market.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.