Minsk steps up Eurasian integration rhetoric
At a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, President Lukashenka proposed to implement a set of effective measures for a more rapid establishment of the EEU. Before his visit to Bishkek, Lukashenka signed the EEU Customs Code and attempted to disavow the delay with intense pro-integration rhetoric. After explicitly boycotting the previous EEU Summit in St. Petersburg, the Belarusian president is attempting to strengthen his positions and form a coalition to defend his economic interest vis-à-vis the Kremlin. That said, some EEU states also expressed discontent with the course of integration within the EEU framework. For example, according to media reports, the Kyrgyzstan president also initially refused to sign the EEU Customs Code at the meeting in St. Petersburg in December 2016, but later he had changed his mind. Minsk aims to use the multilateral integration platform within the EEU to ensure a more favourable environment for Belarusian produces on the Eurasian market and improve energy cooperation with Russia.
Amid budgetary cuts on social protection, the Belarusian public sector is experiencing a management crisis and a balance shift in the state resource redistribution system. The authorities are forced to revise their most unpopular decisions during the implementation due to the pressure from affected social groups. The state is unlikely to oppose to some civil society and opposition organisations in strengthening their role in society in order to retain touch with the population and to be able to respond to the most harsh criticism of state initiatives.
The Architecture and Construction Ministry has acknowledged that the decree No 585 on assistance to large and young families in building and buying housing was prematurely rescinded.
The authorities are often forced to revise their decisions on curtailing social assistance to different social groups during their implementation, without preliminary impact assessment and feedback from the population, so as they lead to the growth in social tension. Due to the centralised decision making, languishing state resources and the lack of public debate as a balancing instrument in issues related to social protection, the state administration is losing control of the population.
Perhaps, the compensatory mechanisms of the state apparatus lack the time to adjust to dwindling state resources for supporting the existing social model, even in a reduced form. The authorities have completely or partially paralysed operations of independent public institutions and representative bodies, through which they could monitor public moods and receive feedback from the population, such as local councils, the parliament, political parties and NGOs. Last year, under the pressure of the authorities, the last independent institute for measuring public sentiment, IISEPS, suspended operations.
President Lukashenka’s self-removal from the decision-making on current socio-economic issues, also could have affected the state apparatus’ operations. The president has always been very sensitive about adopting unpopular decisions which could lower his popular support, hence demanded a careful preliminary assessment of such decisions. However, recently, especially after the introduction of the tax on social dependants, the president has mainly focused on the foreign policy agenda.
Hence, a lacuna has formed in the state decision-making after the president reduced participation in the current socio-economic policy formation, which leads to an increase in manifestations of dysfunction in the public administration.