Administrative reform will increase official’s dependence
On April 12th, the President signed a decree No 168 „Measures to optimize government system and other public organizations, as well as staffing”.
Administrative reform is carried out in compliance with the previously announced radical plan to reduce public servants by one-fourth. At the same time, the President is forced to make new appointments to reduce the opposition risks by the nomenclature, whose interests would be negatively affected by the reform.
As anticipated, the government is reforming the state apparatus in a radical way. On average it is planned to lay-off about 25% of civil servants (about 13,000 people). In practical implications, about 15% will be laid off from state-owned concerns, forest managements, and light industry, and over 27% from foodstuffs and petroleum industries. At the local level – regions, districts and towns – it is anticipated that the overall public servants will be downsized to 20.5 thousand employees – in executive and administrative bodies, including government officials.
The Decree provides the Republican Labour Arbitration (a mediatory body to resolve collective labour disputes) will be dissolved. RLA employs 27 persons and considers about 50 labor disputes per year. Civil servants and state employees, laid-off as a result of the reform, retain the right to appeal against their dismissal to a higher government agency or court, however, collective complaints procedure has not yet been determined.
Predictably, top management at ministries and local executive agencies are the least affected by the reform. In addition, several ministries’ powers even were extended, for example, with capacity to organize exhibitions and trade fairs in Belarus and abroad (Trade Ministry and Foreign Ministry respectively). The Economy Ministry has been appointed a national focal point for relations between Belarus and the Eurasian Economic Commission.
The bulk of personnel reform should be completed before July 1st, 2013, but the decree suggests a further review of the structure and the number of state-budget funded organizations. In particular, paragraph 16.3 of the decree envisages optimizing the number of public institutions providing educational, medical and social services by 25% by January 1st, 2014. These institutions are the pillars of the Belarus’ social state.
To compensate for the dismissal, the government offers the laid-off to defer payments for housing construction and education loans up to a year, until they find a new job, as well as to maintain access to health care in special public clinics. Those who will keep their places will be offered pay-rises from the released funds. In total, the reform aims at saving circa USD 130 million in equivalent.
Painful and rather drastic reduction in the state apparatus forces President Lukashenko to tighten discipline and minimize nomenclature opposition risks. On April 12th, the President made a number of appointments in the law enforcement agencies’ top management, in particular, he appointed two new KGB Deputies, tasking them to strengthen the fight against corruption.
It is anticipated that due to personnel reform and associated risks, the governance style in 2013 will be rigid. Both, the President and his inner circle are interested in – for their own safety – tightened discipline within the state apparatus. This policy further limits the opportunities for the low-level officials to participate in privatization, to lobby Russian businesses’ interests, as well as to participate in Belarus – EU cross-border cooperation programmes, experts’ exchange, etc if launched.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.