State support is unlikely to help Belarusian cement industry
According to the State Control Committee, in recent years the state has allocated over USD 1 billion for the modernization and state support for the cement industry, however its production volumes have not increased. All three cement plants in Belarus are loss making and have a significant amount of overdue debt for energy resources. However, the state is set to continue to support the cement industry, albeit the volume of financial support will be reduced. In addition, the state may introduce administrative barriers for imported cement, including from Russia. Despite all these measures, one of the three cement plants is likely to suspend its activity, which may lead to 1000 people losing their jobs in 2016. Amid decline in the housing construction, existing facilities cannot be used in full due to the lack of opportunities for cement export growth and budget cuts on infrastructure projects.
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.