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 country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.