Belarus’ social stability costs amid raising salaries
On August 8th, Electronic Industry Trade Union leaders said that some workers at the Minsk-based ‘Transistor’ Semiconductors and Integrated Circuits Plant refused to work because of low wages (BYR 2.3 - 2.5 million).
Social stability at Belarus’ enterprises is relative and depends on the government’s ability to raise pays and to pay worker’s wages in time. The likelihood of strikes increases, when pay-rises slow down or when wages substantially lag behind the average wage in the country.
By mid-2013 the authorities face a serious problem: the population expects pay rises while it becomes increasingly difficult to find economic justification for it. In Q1-Q2 2013 the average real wage in Belarus increased by 20.5%, while the average monthly salary in Belarus in June was BYR 5,160,000 (circa USD 580). At the same time, consumer price inflation was 8% and labour productivity in GDP - 2.6%.
Such economic imbalance sooner or later had to force the authorities to take the action, and they found the simplest solution – to limit wage growth in the near future. In particular, Prime Minister Myasnikovich has already suggested to project real wage growth for 2014 at 6%. Minsk Mayor Ladutko also advocated for ending the wage growth in the capital city, where in June the average wage was the highest – BYR 6.66 million (circa USD750).
Simultaneously, in Belarus’ oblasts and regions the average wage deviates significantly from the country’s average, mostly due to higher wages in Minsk. For example, in May 2013 only in 11 of 127 regions the average wage was higher than the country’s average: mostly in industrial towns Soligorsk, Novopolotsk, Rechica, Mozyr, Zhodino and surrounding areas. On the contrary, in 116 regions the average wage was below or well below the country’s average, from BYR 4.6 million in Brest to BYR 2.93 million in Braslavsky region.
Slower wage growth in 2013 and in 2014 will impact the social situation in the labour collectives. The likelihood of strikes will increase. In 2011-2012 Belarus’ workers organized a series of successful strikes and achieved pay rises or timely payments. Thereby a precedent was created: local authorities were forced to meet workers’ ultimate demands.
The authorities’ need for external financial resources is increasing. They are under greater pressure to privatize state enterprises. Noteworthy, ‘Transistor’ Plant is an ‘Integral’ Plant branch, which is one of the five Russo-Belarusian investment priorities.
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.