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.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.