Approval of the Social and Economic Development Programme

April 22, 2016 17:46

Alexander Lukashenko signed the 2011-2015 Social and Economic Development Programme, which was part of his election campaign.

The Programme envisages that in the following five years, the GDP will grow by 62-68%, industrial output by 80-90%, and capital investment by 90-97%. By 2015 the country will reach a surplus in foreign trade by 0,5-0,6% of the GDP (currently a deficit of 15%). The active income will be increased by 70-76%. 

Comment

It is planned that the financing of investment and the production rate growth will be achieved due to credits and external resources. Obviously, the burden will fall on the banking sector, as well as on the state budget of Belarus, which will be forced to partially compensate the interest rates to provide these resources. There is a big question mark so far regarding the attraction of foreign investments. 

Adoption of an a priori impracticable Programme could be explained by bureaucracy or by lack of resources for development of a new one, as well as by inability/unwillingness to acknowledge openly the failure of the previous development paradigm and the need for painful and unpopular structural reforms, which will result in lower revenues and increased unemployment. Moreover, it is also likely that the authorities hope to receive stabilization loans or to sell part of the state property and to “skip through” (with minimal reforms implemented) the troubles against the background of the increasing world prices and changes of the world’s geopolitical situation. In any case, the implementation of the Programme is not feasible, even with the parameters of macroeconomic policies Belarus has offered to Russia.

 

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The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.

In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.

The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.

In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.

Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.