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 have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.