Belarusian government forces large business to support socio-economic model
The state has resumed the quest for additional budgetary resources and stepped up the pressure on large business. Amid high affiliation of the Belarusian business with security forces, businessmen wanting close contacts with the authorities are the most vulnerable. In order to support the existing socio-economic model amid languishing state resources, the authorities are likely to increase the costs for large businesses.
Co-owner of the Fenox Global Group Holding Vitaly Arbuzov has come into view of Belarusian law enforcement on tax evasion suspicions.
Amid lingering recession and languishing budgetary resources, the Belarusian leadership is scaling up practices of milking large private business. The authorities have resumed redistributing proceeds of large businesses engaged in public procurement in favour of the state. The most recent high-profile case concerned criminal allegations against businessman Yury Chizh, who was close to the president. He was released from the KGB jail after paying a damage compensation to the state (the amount was not disclosed). In early 2017, among other managers at state enterprises, the authorities arrested successful businessman Knyrovich, who was known for his publicity, liberal rhetoric and criticism of the government's economic policies.
The state has stepped up the pressure on large business and launched criminal persecution in order to prompt business to donate funds to the budget and to chasten business representatives. According to media reports, Arbuzov was under close surveillance of law enforcers since last year and avoided coming to Belarus, which could imply that he disagreed with the state claims against him.
Apparently, the authorities are attempting to take away part of proceeds from large businessmen, who could transfer their assets abroad. In 2011, Arbuzov registered Fenox Venture Capital company in the Silicon Valley and was engaged in venture capital investments. Analysts note that large business in Belarus is closely affiliated with security forces; however, such ties may weaken if entrepreneurs shift their activity abroad. That said, the Belarusian leadership is attempting to ease tension among entrepreneurs by declaring an intention to relax business environment in Belarus.
Overall, the Belarusian leadership is likely to continue to persecute some large businessmen in order to milk some funds for the state budget.
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.