Belarusian president weakens IT lobbying potential
The president has reshuffled the management in the High Tech Park, one of the most successful state projects, in order to enhance the loyalty in the IT and reduce its lobbying capacity. The Belarusian authorities are likely to worry about the increasing influence of Tsepkala, former HTP head, effective manager and supporter of reforms. The authorities are likely to step up control over the IT by appointing a loyal manager to lead the HTP, who would avoid criticising the state economic policy.
Valery Tsepkala has been dismissed as the Director of the High Tech Park Administration. Before Tsepkala’s dismissal, the state media held a negative media campaign, which challenged the IT achievements in Belarus. Earlier, the president voiced criticism of the IT industry, which was likely an attempt to downplay the industry's value amid a downfall in traditional industries. That said, regardless of numerous attempts and the lack of budgetary funds, the government was unable to find measures to squeeze additional revenues from the lucrative IT.
Staff reshuffles have been the key element in the president’s human resource policy since he came to power. Tsepkala’s dismissal was likely due to some slowdown in the IT in 2016 (to 19%). In addition, managing a very successful governmental project for 11 years, Tsepkala started acquiring a symbolic authority in Belarus. Moreover, the former HTP Director belonged to the so-called liberal bloc and allowed himself some critical statements about the state economic policy.
Perhaps, the president was concerned about the growing weight of the IT in the Belarusian economy with a USD 1 billion turnover in 2016. The state regulates the IT, but the latter fell out of the ideological control, which required redistributing influence in the IT and boosting the loyalty to the Belarusian authorities. For instance, among the most likely new HTP directors could be former chief ideologist from the presidential administration Yanchevsky.
Former HTP head Tsepkala has a good chance to take one of the highest managerial positions, where his experience would be relevant in finding ways to bailout the Belarusian economy.
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.