Socio-economic development of the Minsk region, first Quarter 2011
The newspaper “Mіnskaya pravda” published data of the Central Statistical Office of the Minsk region on 5 May, regarding the outcome of socio-economic development in the first quarter of 2011.
In January-March 2011 the Minsk region secured the implementation of key forecasts. The gross regional product amounted to Br 5.6 trillion, i.e. increased compared with the similar period of the last year in comparable prices by 10.8%, while the prediction for 2011 was 9-10%.
The reporting period has not yet been affected by the currency crisis that broke out in April and the local authorities managed to match major performance indicators with the designated level. Nevertheless, the first two months of the year (there is no March data) have been profitable for 1030 organizations of the region i.e. for 74.2%.
The growth of wages stopped. Nominal gross average monthly wages and salaries amounted to 1,429.4 million rubles. In December 2010 the figure was much higher, 1,520.7 thousand rubles. Real wages in March compared with February 2011 decreased by 0.2%.
A situation with foreign direct investment is catastrophic on a net basis (excluding debts to direct investors for goods, works and services). It was planned to attract over one billion dollars of FDI to the Minsk region in 2011. De facto, during the first two months of the year as little as 6.8 million was attracted.
In April one of the two largest enterprises, i.e. automobile giant BelAZ, was not affected by the crisis: the personnel works full-time, while the plant site is packed with finished products.
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.