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.
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.