President Lukashenko has pardoned 11 political prisoners
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions on their part.
On 14 September President Lukashenko signed a Decree to pardon 11 convicted for participation in the events of 19 December 2010 in Minsk. The EU and the USA recognized all of them as political prisoners.
The Belarusian authorities continue fulfilling the major requirements of the EU and the U.S., namely the unconditional release of all political prisoners, in order to resume cooperation and hope for concessions from Brussels and Washington. The Belarusian authorities have been repeatedly told that the position of the Western countries concerning the release of political prisoners was principled and non-negotiable.
Belarus hopes that implemented economic and political measures will have a positive effect on the IMF decisions, the most important international organization for Belarus today. Therefore the pardon and release of 11 prisoners coincided with the additional trading session at the BCSE, which determined a market value of the Belarusian ruble.
However, all these measures are de facto half-measures. Western countries unequivocally and repeatedly stated that in order to resume a dialogue, Belarus must release all political prisoners. The IMF also emphatically talked about the elimination of the multiplicity of exchange rates. Regardless of the additional trading session, the multiplicity of exchange rates retains. Moreover, the Belarusian authorities continue increasing public spending to offset inflation, which is also at odds with the IMF recommendations.
On 5-17 October the IMF plans another mission to Belarus. To the day, there are 19 other political prisoners behind the bars following the events of 19 December, including 3 ex-presidential candidates.
Even if Alexander Lukashenko meets the requirement to release all political prisoners, a new obstacle in the dialogue may be their political rehabilitation. This additional condition has been voiced by the Polish Ambassador to Belarus Szerepka on 7 September. Otherwise they will not be able to take part in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
It is highly likely that Lukashenko will not agree with this precondition or will oppose it as in his view that will threaten the political stability in the country.
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.