Belarusian democratic community is disappointed in opposition
Last week, social media users and newspaper readers had a broad discussion of two articles (first, second), which accused opposition politicians of failing to reach an agreement on joint participation in the parliamentary election campaign. People were disappointed in the opposition because they believed that the later could only win if it had united. Apparently, the democratic community in Belarus links the victory of democracy in Belarus only with the democratic opposition.
On May 3rd, democratic organisations held consultations during which they had failed to reach an agreement about forming a single list of opposition candidates for the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 11th, 2016. The following organisations participated in the consultations, which were intended as a tool for regular coordination among democratic organizations: the United Civil Party, the Belarusian Popular Front, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), Fair World Belarusian Leftist Party, For Freedom, European Belarus, solidarity movement Razam, independent trade union RAP, Belarusian Christian Democracy, the Belarusian Social Democratic party (Narodnaya Hramada), Belaruski Rukh, the Workers’ Party, the Party of Women Nadzeya, and the Party of Freedom and Progress.
Two of the largest independent online media TUT.by and Belarusian News have published sharply critical articles in response to the reluctance of democratic organizations to act jointly in the parliamentary elections. For instance, Alexander Feduta, said the opposition leaders had become professional beggars, who neglected the interests of democratic voters. In Feduta’s view, voters were interested in a single opposition candidate, and the opposition’s only success in the past 20 years was during the 2001 elections, when under the pressure of the OSCE AMG head a single opposition candidate was nominated.
Political analyst Artyom Shrayban took a similar positon in his article for TUT.BY. He marked that the elections would be held under new rules, requiring a simple majority vote, regardless of the turnout. In his view, the fact that the opposition had split, and would not run a single campaign would create the opportunity for the authorities to win without fraud. Shrayban quoted opposition trust rating chart by IISEPS, which showed that the rating had not risen above 20% since 2011.
Both articles have been praised by social media users. Democratically minded electorate, when pondering about why Belarus had failed a democratic transition, has accused the opposition, which was unable to unite. That said, in 2015, people accused the only oppositional presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich and Tell the Truth of splitting the democratic camp.
Yet the democratically minded electorate is not prepared to take at least some responsibility for political processes, i.e. accept the fact that there are too few of them to ensure the victory for a single candidate or to put an ultimatum to the authorities, and that whether united or not, the opposition would be unable to improve the situation.
In the 2015 presidential elections, two political parties - the United Civil Party and Fair World – failed to collect the required number of signatures for their leaders. Political parties in Belarus may marginalise completely and fall out of the legal political process, which is why they have decided to fully participate in the parliamentary elections in 2016 for the first time the last eight years.
Political leaders and opinion leaders have a different view on current political situation in Belarus: political parties are afraid to lose the ability to play within the legal field completely, while opinion leaders have an optimistic view on the opposition capacities.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.