Former Prime Minister Myasnikovich to ensure economic policy continuity by new government
A monitoring group led by former Prime Minister Vladimir Myasnikovich was set up in order to ensure continuity of social and economic policy by the Kobyakov’s government. The group is also a mechanism for coordinating interests of different nomenclature groups aiming to prevent misbalances in the management in the election year. Its task is to adjust the Government’s policy within the framework of the current socio-economic model in order to prevent economic destabilisation.
On February 26th, the president signed a decree establishing a monitoring group headed by Council of the Republic Chairman Mikhail Myasnikovich. The group was tasked to develop concrete proposals to address socio-economic issues in Belarus. The group’s decisions would become recommendations for the government.
Chairman of the Council of the Republic Myasnikovich outlined the monitoring group’s main objectives: to inform the population and workers about decisions made by the president and the government and to receive their feedback. In particular, Myasnikovich explained his vision of relations between people and the government: “We have a common cause. This work aims at the overall result – economic stabilisation and development”.
Recently, President Lukashenko criticised the new government and referred to the economic deterioration: “The industry is slowing down, stocks at warehouses are building up so as mutual non-payments. So far, measures undertaken to support exports have not worked out. And it all starts to affect people. Real incomes are not growing”. In January 2015, the average salary in Belarus decreased by 35% - from USD 620 to USD 400, as compared with January 2014.
The president also criticised the 2015 Government’s Action Plan. When Prime Minister Kobyakov presented the Plan in the Parliament, he tried to pre-empt accusations of the Plan envisaging "manual control" of the economy. Nevertheless, the Plan contains numerous opportunities for rapid intervention by the authorities aiming to prevent economic destabilisation. In fact, the government in 2015 has received a carte blanche to sustain current socio-economic development by short-term actions depending on the situation.
Interestingly, the Plan also contains some elements, which resemble preparatory steps to structural economic reforms. Most likely, these elements were added to the Plan in order to receive positive reviews from international creditors, such as the IMF, World Bank and other financial organisations. Despite everything, the authorities have not yet demonstrated the explicit desire to implement structural economic reforms, inter alia, reducing the state’s presence in the economy.
The authorities are willing to maintain financial and economic stability at people’s costs – by introducing new ‘taxation’ forms and by weakening social protection. If necessary, the government is ready to introduce measures aiming to raise additional budget revenues, reduce costs and prevent macroeconomic imbalances from accumulation. For instance, subsidised housing construction, which has always been one of the strongest pillars of Lukashenko’s socio-economic model, will be reduced by 30% in the election year. The authorities lack funds to increase people’s incomes in 2015, however, they will implement price control in order to support the current level of well-being.
In the year of presidential elections, the government will attempt to keep the balance between financial, economic and social stability. If external funding is not secured, the authorities might review their social policy and partially take away people’s proceeds to prevent economic destabilisation.
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.