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

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November 21, 2016 8:57
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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 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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