Struggle for dwindling public resources exacerbated in Belarusian banking sector

August 17, 2016 11:30

The fight for dwindling public resources has exacerbated among various nomenclature groups, leading to stepped up anti-corruption prosecution in the banking sector. Most likely, the power block seeks to emphasise its role in ensuring economic stability in Belarus and counterweight the role of liberals from the financial sector who gained influence in the past couple of years. The top leadership is likely to balance out the influence of technocrats from financial institutions with the interests of the power block.

Last week, law enforcement officers detained several top managers of the largest bank in Belarus.

Regardless of their high positions, bankers, who were detained by the security forces, belonged to the second layer of management in the Belarusian banking system. Their detention is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the banking sphere, neither inside, nor outside the country and on the image of the Belarusian banking system for foreign partners

Belarusbank operates many public programmes and allocates substantial financial resources, including concessional lending. One of the most probable reasons for the criminal prosecution of the banks’ top managers could be the struggle for redistribution of dwindling public resources among nomenclature groups.

Belarusbank’s leadership was often critical of the current policy aiming to support outdated state-owned enterprises with inefficient management. Bankers proposed to revise investment projects’ efficiency and approaches to production modernisation in terms of improving management quality, economic liberalisation and stepping up private business’ role.

Perhaps, the bank’s management attracted the attention of the law enforcement, when Belarusbank owners proposed to Lukashenka to sell part of the banks’ shares. The president is very sensitive about selling state assets to private owners. That said, Belarusbank occupies almost half of the Belarusian banking market.

The power block has once again proved useful to the president in ensuring financial discipline in the banking sector.

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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.