Immediate future of Belarus-EU “dialogue”
Alexander Lukashenko sees no immediate need in a dialogue with the West however he is planning to release all political prisoners and to negotiate the approval of the IMF loan with the US and EU to survive until the New Year.
He has no further plans therefore as soon as he receives the loan (at least USD 1.5 billion), his “geopolitical” and “liberal/repressive" moods will swing in the opposite direction.
Last week’s public appearances of Alexander Lukashenko spotlighted his vision of the situation and his plans and expectations vis-?-vis the West. Lukashenko hopes that:
- references to threats from Russia,
- release of political prisoners,
- a round table between representatives of quangos and the opposition,
- introduction of a supplementary session on the Belarusian Currency and Stock Exchange
would be sufficient for the approval of the IMF loan for Belarus by the EU and the USA.
The Head of state, nevertheless, is not interested in a dialogue with the West as he has no idea (except for cancellation of visa restrictions) what to expect from it. However he would like to mitigate the political climate in the relations with the West, in the first place, to continue bargaining with Moscow for fringe benefits, and secondly, in order to expand opportunities for international lending to the Belarusian economy.
He unequivocally declared that he was not interested in political and real economic transformations. His advisors believe that transformations would further undermine his authority, which is not in the best shape at the moment. Lukashenko also sees no reason for real transformations, as it would weaken his position domestically, while benefits are hypothetical by nature.
Therefore he is not even trying to imitate transformations, he relies purely on the imagination of European politicians and the opposition, hoping that sacred words “dialogue”, “round table”, “rapprochement”, “privatization”, etc will trigger a chain of associations and will be perceived as a starter pistol. If there are no counter-proposals, he will send a behind the scenes hint inviting for couloirs negotiations via his security forces and ideology workers.
According to estimates of the ruling group, about USD 1-1.5 billion is needed in order to keep going before the sale of Beltransgaz to Gazprom and a new round of negotiations with Russia. The authorities have high expectations regarding these talks and their success is conditioned inter alia by the “European” stake however the main goal is to move to the next phase of the Customs Union. That is why there is “time pressure”, the money is needed now otherwise the National Bank will not be able to intervene at the supplementary session.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.