Annual review 2013 | Forecast for 2014
In 2013, the Belarusian authorities remained in full control of the country, despite the state apparatus becoming steadily less efficient and providing fewer social benefits to the population . The lack of real economic progress was compensated by emission-pumped economic growth and pay rises.
Key trends in politics:
- state apparatus became less manageable;
- shortages in human resource shortages at top and medium management levels in the government;
- social benefits cut and quest started to replenish the state budget at people’s cost;
- dependence on Russia increased;
- attempts made to resume high-level dialogue with Brussels and Washington.
Key trends in economy:
- economic recession coupled with poorly diversified export markets;
- potash cartel break-up and reduced investment demand on the Russian market;
- foreign trade deficit and overstocked warehouses;
- international reserves fell
- expectations of devaluation increased
Forecast for 2014:
- public administration will become increasingly inefficient, threatening to split the ruling groups;
- the ‘social welfare state’ will continue to shrink;
- social tension will grow;
- law enforcement’s powers will be strengthened in order to prevent a split among the elite and to counteract open discontent among the population;
- greater involvement in the Eurasian integration project in order to secure external loans and prevent social tension growth;
- economic dependence on Russian capital will continue to grow;
- industrial production slowdown;
- picking citizen’s pockets through ‘new’ tax and non-tax mechanisms;
- restricted pay rises.
In 2014, economic ‘development’ will be out of the equation. Should Belarus manage to receive loans and sell property to gain circa $3-4 billion, this sum will be spent on preserving the status quo. If the authorities fail to raise enough funds, the likelihood of devaluation will increase.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.