Belarusian authorities to boost economy by reducing social protection

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April 22, 2016 19:39

The Belarusian authorities have been prompted to initiate a discussion in the Belarusian society about introducing highly unpopular measures in order to relieve tension and to find a compromising solution. The state is aimed at seeking ways to optimize the existing socio-economic model and boost economic development by cutting state social guarantees. Anyway, measures proposed by the states do not envisage structural economic reforms or reduced state control of the economy.

Assistant to the president and PhD in economy Kyrill Rudy published an article in the Belarusian Economic Review, in which he explained why the retirement age should be raised and maternity leave reduced.

The Belarusian authorities launched a major campaign aiming to prepare public opinion for the inevitability of unpopular decisions, such as increasing the retirement age and reducing maternity leave. Statements by some high level officials, including the president indicate that the principled decision has already been made. So the authorities are set to discuss the timing for introducing such measures and suitable compensation mechanisms.

Both, independent and state pollsters have confirmed the extreme unpopularity among the population of the idea of raising the retirement age, which is likely to lead to enhanced protest moods. However, state pollsters from the Sociology Institute at the National Academy of Sciences said that poll results revealed that people "have the understating of the fact that the retirement age will be risen any way".

The authorities lack a comprehensive anti-crisis programme and a roadmap for socio-economic reforms, which results in low support from society. Assistant to the President and PhD in economy Kirill Rudy in his article explained the need for raising the retirement age and shortening maternity leave as probable factors of economic growth in the near future and in the five-year period.

Unpopular initiatives by the authorities to raise the retirement age and reducing maternity leave have caused a debate in the expert community and the opposition, dividing them in their assessments of the authorities’ initiatives.

Some independent media reporters have supported the state in its endeavor to cut social guarantees to the population, seeing it as an element of reforming the existing socio-economic model. However, they think it is unnecessary or even harmful for the authorities to consult with the population, where paternalistic attitudes dominate. Other independent analysts and opposition leaders are critical of the authorities’ unpopular action and hope to raise their ratings with populist rhetoric.

In addition, the government does not have a holistic view of the country’s further development, and demonstrates a desire to maintain the existing socio-economic model in a shortened form. In recent years, the authorities were only reducing social obligations to the population, without liberalization and structural economic reforms.

Currently, the authorities seek to lower tension in society over reduced state’s social guarantees, while preserving the state monopoly in the economy.

It is very likely that the final decision about increasing the retirement age and reducing maternity leave, as well as the amount of state compensation for people’s losses may be adopted within a few months of an "outreach" campaign and after the parliamentary elections.

image - ctv.by

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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.

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