Privatization in favour of local investors is gaining momentum
Privatization in favour of local investors is gaining momentum in Belarus. For instance, in the first ten days of July shares in the following companies have been sold:
- Shares in “Baranovichigazstroy” have been acquired by a private equity Belarusian unitary enterprise “AnvoyInvest” at an auction. The investor has bought 80.7% of the capital shares of the enterprise for Br 1 billion 98 million;
- Stakes in the JSC “Promstroysistema” (75.4% of the statutory capital) have been sold for Br 168.6 million rubles to “Sog Story” ltd;
- Shares of the JSC “Borisov repair and mechanical plant” (42.1% of the statutory capital) have been acquired for Br 2.8 billion by the JSC “ATEP-5”;
- 15.4% of the statutory capital of the JSC “Lesohimik” (Borisov) has been bought for Br 3.705 billion by the JSC “Polesezhilstroy”;
- 42.1% of the statutory capital of the JSC “Borisov repair-mechanical plant” has been bought for Br 2 billion 800 million also by the JSC “ATEP—5”;
- 1.8% of the statutory capital of the JSC “Baranovichi Shoe Factory” has been bought by a Russian investor.
Sale auctions concerning “Pukhovichi Experimental Plant”, “Slonim car repair factory”, “Special vehicles”, “TransMozyr”, “Polymer” and “Bobruisk shoe factory” did not take place due to the lack of bids from potential buyers.
Privatization of municipal property is gaining momentum on the ground (small-scale providers of services).
Since the beginning of the year (and in fact in June-July) local investors have bought shares of 10 local enterprises. It seems the authorities thereby try to compensate for the lack of “large-scale” privatization. All these transactions have a lot in common:
1) all auctioned companies are small;
2) as a rule, there was no competition;
3) takes bought by a local investor;
4) the sale price was only slightly bigger than the initial price (book value of about 5-10%);
5) whether an enterprise provokes interest of some profile investor, the amount of stake put on sale is under 50%.
The sale of enterprises raises the revenues of the republican and local budgets in particular and shows the willingness of the government to continue with its ambitious three-year long privatization programme. However, judging upon the carried out transactions it would be too premature to talk about the beginning of a mass-scale privatization and about active participation of foreign investors in it. It is linked to the unwillingness of President Lukashenko to privatize large property in particular in favour of foreign capital (the State Committee on Investment has no authority over privatization of large enterprises).
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.