Belarusian authorities aim to tighten control over IT and boost its role in economy

March 20, 2017 10:10
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The president has demonstrated a loyal attitude to the IT sector, and simultaneously stepped up control over the industry. By appointing a compromise candidate, Vsevolod Yanchevsky, to lead the High Tech Park, the Belarusian authorities aspire to relax tension between the IT sector and the state, which occurred following Tsepkalo’s dismissal. Apparently, the Belarusian leadership envisages applying private business practices in traditional industries to the IT sector, i.e. allowing large businesses to develop in exchange for the loyalty to the current authorities and their financial needs.

The president has appointed his aide, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the HTP and long time supervisor of the IT industry, Vsevolod Yanchevsky, as he Head of the HTP Administration.

Amid distress in traditional industries, the state has stepped up its interest in the IT development in an attempt to boost economic growth. The president counts on prompt economic effects thanks to large investment in the economy. For instance, last week he visited Belarusian IT companies together with Russian billionaire and IT investor Mikhail Gutseriev. Meanwhile, apparently not all senior officials from the president’s inner circle share his views, so they speak about the long-term IT development in order to prevent criticism in his regard in the future.

IT sector leaders have reacted positively to the appointment of former chief ideologist from the presidential administration Yanchevsky to lead the HTP. Yanchevsky is probably the only official in the top echelon of the state administration, who is closely familiar with the IT and communication technologies, and suits both, the authorities and IT entrepreneurs.

It is worth noting that, along with his appointment as the HTP Head, Yanchevsky is attempting to strengthen his lobbying potential by creating an additional bureaucratic structure - the Public Council for IT Development, which would include officials and business representatives.

The Belarusian leadership seems ready for gradual structural transformations in the economy in Belarus and takes measures to ensure it retains control over new promising sectors.

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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.