Belarusian president opens up to criticism to ease tension in society
The president has outlined the acceptable framework for criticising and opposing to government policies. The Belarusian authorities invited some civil society and expert community representatives to participate in the official public event in order to narrow differences and search for a value consensus in Belarusian society. President Lukashenka appears willing to strengthen some state and public institutions, which could create the environment for a peaceful transition of power in the future.
Last week, Belarusian President Lukashenka met with journalists and experts for ‘A big talk with the President’.
The president attempted to respond to many issues of concern, but in reality reiterated all his previous theses. Many pressing issues were raised by pro-government journalists and experts, indicating the readiness of the Belarusian authorities to a public dialogue, albeit on their terms and without the sharp pressure from the opponents. Simultaneously, the president’s bright and long-lasting presentation (7 hours and 19 minutes) demonstrated that he was in a good shape as a politician.
The president only briefly mentioned a possible transfer of power through elections in the future, without the modalities and terms. Nevertheless, he invited some mild critics of the government policy to participate in the meeting, including some representatives of the independent media, NGOs (the Belarusian Language Society), political parties (Liberal Democratic Party), and experts (Liberal Club, Mises Center). This reinforced the trend towards strengthening the role of political parties and the parliament in the political system, as well as the independent media.
By inviting some critics of the government policies, the authorities have outlined the acceptable level of criticism for the opposition to form a common value-based platform for co-operation. Nevertheless, while talking about the opposition, the president referred to the ‘fifth column’, thereby strongly rejecting any consensus with his harsh critics.
Apparently, the systemic crisis and discontent of the population have encouraged the Belarusian authorities to search for a new value system as a base for public consensus. The Belarusian leadership appears ready to tolerate moderate opposition in the public space and may revise the social contract with the population, based on non-interference in politics in exchange for growing well-being.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.