Authorities increase social spending ahead of 2015 presidential campaign
President Lukashenko has criticized the Health Ministry for adopting a decision concerning the new drug prescription rules and reminded once again that by late 2015, half of all medicines sold in pharmacies should be manufactured in Belarus. In addition, the government will increase spending on healthcare (and education) in 2015 - 16.6% more has been budgeted on healthcare and 16.8% more on education (compared with 2014). Wide response and public dissatisfaction with the quality of healthcare services, as well as socio-political initiatives on the national level (’People’s Referendum’) and in the regions aiming to draw attention to the state’s social policy reform, have prompted the authorities to revise their approach and increase funding in some spheres. However, after the presidential campaign the government might continue reducing social guarantees to the population, with the most significant changes coming in the first years after the election.
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.