Belarusian President did not succeed in gaining total control over elite leisure activities
On April 19, President Lukashenko held a meeting on hunting and fishing development, and demanded to improve control at the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society.
Presidential efforts to control forest network in Belarus imply that Belarusian leader is concerned about the opportunities such facilities provide for informal communication inside elite. Hunting and fishing is a little advertised, but important part of life in the Belarusian elite.
For instance, a controversial investigation into illegal hunting in one of forests in the Gomel region in 2009 revealed that then-Defense Minister Yuri Zhadobin, as well as high ranking officials from the KGB and Interior Ministry could be involved in it. Today President Lukashenko is not so much concerned about the illegal hunting.
More importantly, he sends the elite a signal about their leisure and informal contacts being controlled at the highest level.
That is why in 2010 President Lukashenko personally supervised the reform of the Belarusian Hunters and Fishermen Society and in 2012 tried to initiate the creation of a special body to exercise state management in hunting and fishing (during a meeting on 19 April).
However, President’s initiative caused elite’s reaction. Deputy Prime Minister Rumas, who chaired the working group on this issue, reported that the establishment of a single supervisory authority was impractical, and the President was forced to agree.
Amid budgetary cuts on social protection, the Belarusian public sector is experiencing a management crisis and a balance shift in the state resource redistribution system. The authorities are forced to revise their most unpopular decisions during the implementation due to the pressure from affected social groups. The state is unlikely to oppose to some civil society and opposition organisations in strengthening their role in society in order to retain touch with the population and to be able to respond to the most harsh criticism of state initiatives.
The Architecture and Construction Ministry has acknowledged that the decree No 585 on assistance to large and young families in building and buying housing was prematurely rescinded.
The authorities are often forced to revise their decisions on curtailing social assistance to different social groups during their implementation, without preliminary impact assessment and feedback from the population, so as they lead to the growth in social tension. Due to the centralised decision making, languishing state resources and the lack of public debate as a balancing instrument in issues related to social protection, the state administration is losing control of the population.
Perhaps, the compensatory mechanisms of the state apparatus lack the time to adjust to dwindling state resources for supporting the existing social model, even in a reduced form. The authorities have completely or partially paralysed operations of independent public institutions and representative bodies, through which they could monitor public moods and receive feedback from the population, such as local councils, the parliament, political parties and NGOs. Last year, under the pressure of the authorities, the last independent institute for measuring public sentiment, IISEPS, suspended operations.
President Lukashenka’s self-removal from the decision-making on current socio-economic issues, also could have affected the state apparatus’ operations. The president has always been very sensitive about adopting unpopular decisions which could lower his popular support, hence demanded a careful preliminary assessment of such decisions. However, recently, especially after the introduction of the tax on social dependants, the president has mainly focused on the foreign policy agenda.
Hence, a lacuna has formed in the state decision-making after the president reduced participation in the current socio-economic policy formation, which leads to an increase in manifestations of dysfunction in the public administration.