The Belarusian authorities further pursue inconsistent coronavirus information policy and tighten economic regulation

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30-05.04.2020
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By Zmicier Kuchlej

The Belarusian leadership has been forced to somewhat revise the information policy amidst the further spread of the coronavirus and its impact on society. Authorities have improved the communication of data on coronavirus cases, extended school vacations and show-cased tough response to criticism of enforced public policies. So far, there were no changes in the plans to hold the presidential elections before August 30th, 2020.

The ruling elite appears to be of one mind with the president’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic. However, there is growing discontent among public employees (especially doctors) and in society with the authorities’ approaches. Yielding to mounting public pressure, the president last week extended school spring vacations for a week.

Meanwhile, the authorities have flexed their muscle to reduce criticism of public policies in society. For instance, a doctor from Vitsebsk, who said that the situation with COVID-19 was getting out of control, was summoned to the prosecutor.

Due to the pandemic, the government has announced readiness to introduce state support measures, including the allocation of BYN 110 million. However, President Lukashenka last week only spoke about increasing the state subsidies to the public sector, prompting SMEs to look after themselves.

Additionally, the government has further strengthened the interference with the economy and restricted the growth in commodity prices by a maximum 0.5% per month, which could bring importers to the brink of survival.

The president continued to insist on holding the presidential elections on time, that is, without the reference to the coronavirus epidemic. His stance could be due to the anticipated recession and falling living standards in Belarus, which may harm his popular support and heighten tension in society.

The president is expected to address the nation and parliament on April 16th. Most likely, he will focus on the following: the upcoming presidential elections and related major challenges (such as preserving sovereignty and independence, maintaining stability), the economic downfall and the coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, the president is attempting to revise approaches and criteria for assessing the efficiency of the power system and local authorities, including abandoning gross indicators. Such a change is due to the anticipated economic downturn in the coming months.

The authorities are likely to somewhat revise their media policy concerning the coronavirus spread and take some additional containment measures to relax tension in society.

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