Government cuts: risks and opportunities
Cuts in the number of state officials should improve the state apparatus’ controllability. However, the lack of adequate career opportunities for the ones laid off will create tensions among Belarusian officials, which, in turn, could help different political organizations to improve their influence.
On October 12th, the Head of State ordered to set up a commission to work out how to optimize the state apparatus. The Commission was tasked to draft reform proposal before the end of the year.
The state apparatus reform in Belarus is meant to be radical. According to Lukashenko, the reform will reduce the number of public officials by 25-30%. According to 2011 official data, 70,612 people were employed in the public administration, 56,232 of which were state employees (excluding security agencies staff).
The problem with the reform is that in Belarus there is no tradition of a successful transition from the public service in other areas, for example, in business. There are individual cases of successful transit from a high-level position to large and medium businesses, but they only underscore the general lack of career opportunities for the laid off officials, in particular, if the reform aims to free up to 25-30% civil servants.
At this reform stage, the government offered no solutions to this problem, which creates a risk to public authorities. First of all, now a variety of political players in Belarus and abroad have a window of opportunity to campaign and recruit from this circle of experienced and influential people. Namely, from Interior Ministry employees which will be subject to staff cuts in the first place.
It should be anticipated, that Belarusian security services are aware of this problem and will track contacts of retired officials very closely. In the meanwhile, until completed, the government reform itself objectively reduces the stability in the state power and increases the overall political risks in Belarus, which plays into the hands of the law enforcement agencies, especially the KGB.
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.