Disciplinary measures in the regions
During a press conference on 13 May the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee Boris Batura vowed to tighten the control for mismanagement by the local representatives of the "vertical". According to him, the Regional Executive Committee and the State Control Committee of the Minsk Region will monitor the cases of mismanagement in the region on a weekly basis. The worst performing regions will then become a subject of local "debriefings" with the public and media involvement.
Last week, officials of the region circled around the area in a Ministry of Emergencies helicopter. As a result the controlling bodies noted the poor state of roadsides, many deserted houses in the countryside, disorder in some production facilities, farms, in particular, barren spots in agricultural fields due to technology misapplication.
Disciplinary measures by the local governments are meant to restore the control over the state apparatus however they might become an additional factor in population’s loss of confidence to the state.
The demand of Alexander Lukashenko to restore the disciplinary practices of the Soviet Union (introduced by Andropov, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU) is explained by the fact that the authorities lost the ability to ensure social protection of the population, to ensure conditions for the functioning of businesses and trade organizations, and that repressive practices is the only tool available for them at the moment.
One of the purposes of the disciplinary measures is to intimidate the population and prevent all forms of their self-organization. The control over the labour discipline has significantly increased at enterprises and organizations. Intelligence agencies and local governments raid businesses to fix delays for work. For instance, last week in Gomel all exits from the city shopping centre were closed, documents of all buyers were checked and then reported to their work places. In Miadel Executive Committee (Minsk region) officials were checked against late arrivals to work. 15 cases of tardiness were revealed. In order to exclude loyalty towards those being late (the population of the district is around 10,000 people and many relate to one another) a two-step control was implemented: the quality of the checks was controlled too.
Ideology workers have become more active. Meetings with groups of workers were held to explain the temporary nature of the "troubles" with the currency crisis. Cleanness of the streets and work discipline were proposed as replacements of declining well-being of the population, as well as assurances of its recovery in the future.
All these measures were an added value to the growth of social discontent. The obsessive control is regarded by the population as an attempt to shift responsibility from the real culprits of the crisis - Lukashenko and his team onto the population.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.