Last week the Finance Minister of Russia Alexei Kudrin said that Russia does not consider the allocation of a USD 1 billion loan from its budget and that Belarus could rely on the funds of the EEC Anti-Crisis Fund only ($ 1 billion in 2011-2013).
The Belarusian delegation departed for Moscow on 13 May to start technical arrangements for a loan agreement with the Eurasian Economic Community Crisis Fund for USD 1 billion.
What is behind this statement? On the one hand, it could be informational setting for Belarus on the eve of the visit of V. Putin. He can make a diametrically opposite statement and announce the speedy issue of the loan under certain conditions. In his statement Kudrin on behalf of Russia, for the first time voiced direct reference to the possibility and necessity of raising funds from privatization. There was no privatization in the country yet, because, again, the officials are simply afraid to go to the President with the price-offers made by investors.
Regardless of the fact that there are fewer objects atrracting Russian investors with every passing year, there are strategic assets that will always be of interest to Russians (Energy, Engineering, potassium, some infrastructure companies). It is possible that Russia named the price for a few facilities of their interest - $ 2 billion.
On the other hand, it could be a balanced strategic decision, which means that Russia is not going to throw money down the drain because of the lack of political will or crisis management skills of the current government. That is, Russia is consciously shifting from politics to economy and is not willing to pay for politics any longer (Belarus has already signed all the necessary documents). A possible demarche and withdrawal of Belarus from the integration projects with Russia, threatens Belarus with greater troubles.
At the same time, even small loans like this one are vital for the country. But, there are no grounds to believe that the country will get this money before the end of May, as the Belarusian government hopes, given the conditions for granting the credit were not agreed upon. The Russian-Belarus relations will be clarified next week, during Vladimir Putin’s visit to Minsk.
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.