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.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.