The state counts on business in ensuring social guarantees; law enforcers relax pressure on the opposition

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09-15.03.2020
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By Zmicier Kuchlej

The authorities aim to gradually shift social responsibility for workers from the state onto private business. As it stands, law enforcers have somewhat relaxed pressure on civil society, independent media, and the opposition, albeit aim to enhance the regulatory capacity in the IT sector.

The authorities continue to seek funds to compensate for reduced social protection for the population. This time they aim to assign additional social obligations to private business. Trade unions are promoting the creation of a special insurance fund, which would ensure compensations to workers of bankrupt enterprises. The insurance rate for commercial enterprises can be 0.1% of the payroll. To date, bankrupt enterprises’ debt to their employees stands at some BYN 20 million, that said, most of them are state-owned.

Simultaneously, the Belarusian authorities have no plans to reform the social security system (FSZN) and increase the contribution by employees, which employers have long advocated for. The change is unlikely due to the existing ideological approach when the state (rather than the employee) owns the funds and redistributes them in favor of a professional or a social group.

The authorities further pursued the policy of limited wage growth, despite the upcoming presidential elections. For instance, the government said that cash incomes and the minimum wage in February would not be adjusted for inflation. According to official statistics, since early 2020, inflation was already 1.9% and BYN sank against USD by almost 10%. The authorities are likely to start increasing wages immediately before the presidential elections.

Law enforcers aspire to strengthen their positions and strengthen the regulatory capacity in the IT field to have more options for persecution. The Investigative Committee is lobbying amendments to the Criminal Code to enable cryptocurrency seizure.

So far, the authorities have not interfered with regional meetings held by the primaries’ organizers. Director-General of Mahileukhimvalakno and former head of the Mogilev Oblast Executive Committee Piotr Rudnik has changed his mind about suing independent journalists claiming a EUR 5 million compensation for spreading rumors about his detention within the “sugar case”. That said, President Lukashenka, at a meeting with Interior Minister Yuri Karaeu has instructed law enforcers to ensure stability in the pre-election period.

Hence, law enforcers are likely to respond harshly to opposition attempts to organize unauthorized protests, especially if they gain in popularity.