Centralization remains the main method of economic management
President Lukashenko approved the establishment of the ‘Belarusian Cement Corporation’ group in Mogilev on August 16
Reinforced state control is still the priority method of economic policy for the ruling group. ‘Liberal’ amendments to the legislation in practice do not increase the impact of business yet of law enforcement agencies.
Still, stronger position of the state and increased control over business meant to boost state budget revenues is still the main economic strategy of the ruling group. The revenues are expected to rise either from growing tax returns, or due to privatisation of the part of the enlarged company.
In particular, it is expected that the establishment of the ‘Belarusian Cement Corporation’ group on the basis of three companies (Belarusian cement plant JSC, ‘Krasnoselskstroymaterialy’ and ‘Krichevtsementnoshifer’ JSC) will double cement production up to 10 million tons per year by 2015 (4.9 million tons were produced in 2012 in the Republic of Belarus). The authors of the new holding group project don’t rule out the possibility of selling of the share in it to some ‘strategic investor’. The details of the possible sale of the still non-existent company are not disclosed yet, which indicates that the statement is of advertising nature.
At the same time the President called for elimination of intermediaries in the supply of raw materials and components for cement production, including criminal prosecution of companies’ managers found guilty of the excessive use of intermediaries. Thus, the subordinates of the president are given ‘the green light’ for complete reorganisation of the cement industry under the state control. These actions of the ruling group are fully in line with the tendency to strengthen the role of the state in economy: in confectionery, woodworking, meat and dairy industries, observed over the past year.
In this regard, the meeting on the liberalisation of criminal and administrative legislation with the participation of Lukashenko held on August 13 does not seem exceptional. The President received a suggestion to soften legislation ‘to put the business initiative at ease’ in the country. The details have not been made public, but it is known that the use of pre-trial cooperation agreement has been suggested among other things.
It is highly doubtful that the initiative about such amendments to the Penal and Administrative codes came from the business community (it does not have sufficient influence to do that). Therefore it is most likely that the initiative came from within the state apparatus. In this respect it is noteworthy that the suggestion about the use of pre-trial cooperation objectively increases the role of law enforcement authorities and the judiciary in business negotiations. The strengthening of the position of security forces is also an apparent tendency of state policy in recent years.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.