Belarusian president falls back on populist rhetoric, albeit without commitment to improve people’s well-being

November 21, 2016 8:57

Amid the lack of acceptable solutions how to help the Belarusian economy out of recession from the market reforms supporters in the government, the president has resumed the populist rhetoric about the pay rises. Apparently, positions of micro managers in the government have somewhat strengthened, which boosted the competition in the state apparatus. The senior management is unlikely to resume micromanagement policy in the economy, but is likely to implement half-measures in the economy and preserve the balance of interests in the government.

President Lukashenka ordered to level up the average wage to USD 500 in 2017.

The president’s intention to increase the average wage by one third from USD 377 to USD 500 in 2017 has raised concerns among some independent economists about the resumption of the micromanagement in the economy and administrative pay-rises to the population. That said, the president’s statement about pay rises was ambiguous - without an unambiguous commitment to increase household incomes.

A slight increase in the average wage is likely to be due to further layoffs at state enterprises. Simultaneously, the authorities aspire that unemployment rate will remain low due to the outflow of the workforce abroad, primarily to Russia. In addition, international money transfers by migrant workers are likely to support incomes and consumption of the Belarusian families at an acceptable level.

Some independent analysts have not ruled out that the president’s populist rhetoric could help preserving the pre-crisis consumption among the population thanks to dissaving in anticipation of improved well-being in the coming year. In addition, amid the freezing of wage growth, the population has become one of the largest currency donors to the Belarusian economy due to a large amount of savings.

Amid the lingering crisis and falling incomes, the president is attempting to boost his ratings and relieve tension among the population by talking about pay-rise.

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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.