Before early spring Belarusian authorities will renegotiate contract with entrepreneurs in exchange for their political passivity

April 22, 2016 19:39

Before the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian authorities hope to seize growing discontent among entrepreneurs and their politicization through negotiations with mutual concessions on both sides. Yet the authorities have not offered the full package of concessions – it will be prepared by the spring and will depend on SME protest activity. The opposition has once again failed to take advantage of tension between the authorities and the SMEs in order to build its human and financial capacity before the parliamentary campaign.

According to the estimates of the organisers, the anti-crisis Business Forum has attracted more than 1 500 people. The regular Business Forum serves as a mechanism for coordinating interests within business environment and elaborating mutual concessions acceptable for the state and SMEs. The most recent Forum was also attended by Trade and Economy ministry representatives.

The SME’s main requirements vis-à-vis the state include: enabling selling imported light industry goods without supporting documents, abolishing mandatory payment terminals, introducing a five-year moratorium on inspections and seizures, reducing rent fees, tax and penalty rates amid reductions in welfare and others. According to SME representatives, if the state does not reduce the financial pressure on SMEs, 120,000-140,000 jobs may be lost.

In recent years, tension between entrepreneurs and the state was often on the rise so as the state was tightening operating conditions for SMEs each year. The authorities often seized SME’s protest activity by delaying the introduction of restrictive measures. Nevertheless, the state consistently introduced new mechanisms of raising additional budgetary proceeds from SMEs.

This time, the authorities seem to be taking the SME’s basic requirement quite seriously – to abolish the requirement of supporting documents for the sale of imported light industry goods. President Lukashenka said that the requirement would not be abolished: “their honeymoon years will be over as of January 1st, they will have to work on equal terms and with supporting documents”. That said, last March, when tension between the authorities and the SMEs was high, President Lukashenka visited one of the Minsk markets. Back then, after the meeting with entrepreneurs the president allowed to extend the terms of trade without documents until the end of 2015.

Meanwhile, amid the overall restrictive policy against consumer imports, the authorities may be less sensitive to the needs of SMEs importing light industry goods. According to Trade Ministry specialists, only about 13,000 entrepreneurs have not yet sold the remnants of the goods lacking supporting documents.

It is worth noting that the level of solidarity among entrepreneurs is quite low and their interests differ a lot. The state has learned to use such contradictions quite successfully when implementing its long-term SME strategies and disabling unnecessary politicization of their demands. In recent years, especially since the politicized street protests of entrepreneurs in the winter of 2007-2008, the state has concluded an informal contract with SMEs, according to which the parties committed to dispute resolution through dialogue and without street activity.

In recent years, the opposition parties and leaders have repeatedly attempted to use the SME’s discontent with the authorities’ actions and prompt them to closer cooperation. However, small business is not willing to join efforts with the opposition in order to defend its interests and prefers direct negotiations with the authorities and adapting to the new environment.

By early spring 2016, the authorities are likely to conclude a new short-term contract with SMEs, the terms of which will be developed through negotiations and will exclude political demands. The state, however, is likely to continue to introduce new mechanisms of milking the SMEs.

Image: Vadim Zamirovskiy, TUT.BY

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.