Civil Society promote budget transparency; political parties have concerns about West-2017-military drill; repressions against trade union leaders
Civil society consistently promotes initiatives aimed to improve transparency in the most problem areas, such as the budgeting process and the allocation of funds from the Social Security Fund. Political parties have stepped up pressure on the authorities due to the West-2017 military drill and repressions against trade unions. "Tell the truth" has attempted a dialogue with the Defence Ministry to relax tension in society, and the Belarusian National Congress started mobilization in anticipation of autumn protests.
Civic activists are trying to step up control over the state budget and public funds. Enhanced transparency in this field could relax tension in society in the view of budgetary cuts on social protection and, possibly, prompt the state to a dialogue on reforms. For instance, SYMPA initiatives have been successful on the grassroot level and boosted public activity to enhance control of the state institutions. For example, public activists have launched a petition demanding to increase the transparency of the Social Security Fund through the website "Comfortable City". In addition, such initiatives from the expert community strengthen the potential of the opposition in prompting reforms in a dialogue with the authorities, and in mobilising the supporters of changes.
"Tell the Truth" leader, Andrei Dmitriev has proposed to the Defence Ministry to create a public commission, comprised of politicians, experts and civil activists to monitor the West-2017 Russo-Belarusian military drill. Initially, the Defence Ministry responded to this initiative through its Twitter account, however soon after, downplayed its response.
The Minsk city authorities have not authorised a street protest against the military exercise to be held opposite the Russian embassy in Minsk, proposed by the Belarusian Popular Front. Meanwhile, the Belarusian National Congress, led by Statkevich, has announced a rally on September 8th, 2017 against the drill. Most likely, the majority of the population is indifferent to the Russo-Belarusian military cooperation (or positive). The initiative of the Tell the Truth is likely to appeal to the Belarusian expert community, while the rest of the opposition would divide between the supporters of street protests (the BNC) and electoral campaigns by right-centrist and the BPF.
Last week, the BNC and the centre-right coalition have focused on defending trade union leaders. The focus on repressions and distraction from the social and economic agenda has narrowed the support for the opposition to conventional protest groups in society and could lower the motivation of activists to participate in the local election campaign.
Apparently, civil society and expert initiatives aiming to prompt the authorities to enhance the transparency of the public spending and to reform the state administration, are likely to gain popularity among the population, especially amid budgetary cuts on social protection. Supporters of a dialogue with the authorities could also increase the number of followers and boost the reform agenda through cooperation with expert initiatives. The opposition’s focus on repressions and West-2017 military drill is unlikely to improve their ratings or increase their followers.
The country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.