Civil Service Reform Reduces the Stability of Power in 2013
On January, 11, president Lukashenko held a meeting on the optimization of the structure, staff and functions of government agencies.
The main aim of the reform is to cut expenses on the civil service, rather than to structurally rebuild the system of governance, since such an approach only increases a risk of a bigger decline in the ability to manage the state. It is inevitable that there will be former civil servants unsatisfied with the reform.
Lukashenko’s statements confirmed the previously made assessment. In the president’s understanding, the purpose of the reform is to reduce budget expenses on civil service, which will be done through downsizing the vertical of power. In Lukashenko’s view, after that it will be possible to review functions of state agencies. According to the president’s estimations, these measures will make it possible to save a sum equivalent to USD 130 million and to use this financing to increase salaries of the remaining civil servants.
Initially, the working group responsible for the implementation of the reform presented an alternative approach. They suggested first to optimize the functions of the civil service and then reduce the staff. However, this approach did not find understanding with president. In Lukashenko’s wording, the purpose of the reform is “No, my dear. First, make reduction by a quarter, and then review in government and ministries which functions you don’t need to perform at present”.
As of the end of 2011, the number of civil servants in Belarus accounted for
56 000 people. According to Lukashenko, under the reform 13 000 employees will be made redundant; most of the redundancies must be done in the first half of 2013. The president also says that redundant civil servants will not be provided with any privileges, benefits or payments. Instead, the state will support them and will help them find a new place of work, re-train and get a bank loan.
Therefore, the priorities of the civil service reform as described by president significantly increase the risks of negative side effects, varying from dissatisfaction with a new place of work of those who have been made redundant (or unhappy with having no work at all) to a temporary decrease in the functional performance of some state bodies. The situation is endangered by plans to increase salaries for the civil servant who will remain in service, which might lead to growth of corruption risks this year.
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.