Harsh personnel policies will not result in nomenclature coup
On February 8th, new President Property Management Department Head Vladimir Sheyman reported to President Lukashenko that the Investigation Committee was examining three criminal cases against Departments’ officials suspected of public funds embezzlement.
Recently launched Belarus’ state apparatus reform is inevitably accompanied with restructuring in top managerial elite. High-profile cases against officials close to President Lukashenko remain a conventional, effective and yet safe personnel policy tool for the ruling group.
Anti-corruption purging is the most effective personnel policy tool in Belarus. In his report, V. Sheyman, appointed to lead President’s Property Management Department on January 21st, listed numerous violations in the Department and said that he would re-staff the Department with younger and better competent workers. Unofficial reports say that former Head Nikolai Korbut was placed under house arrest, and one of his Deputies had attempted suicide right at his workplace.
These developments, especially if suicide attempt reports are true, confirm assessments that Belarusian officials cannot counter the country’s leadership effectively and protect their interests collectively. Mutual trust among public officials is very low, therefore persons involved in corruption cases either compensate damages to the state, or accept their fate with humble.
In political terms, this state of affairs implies that the probability of ‘nomenclature revolution’ in Belarus in low. Firstly, the ruling group has sufficient array of compromising information about their subordinate officials: this personnel management style was founded in the days of the Parliamentary Anti-corruption Commission operations, headed by then Supreme Council Deputy Alexander Lukashenko in 1993-1994. Secondly, Belarus’ harsh personnel policy effectively breaks the longstanding relationships between officials and businesses and prevents from political lobbying which could endanger the Lukahsenko’s regime stability.
President Property Management Department is the largest lessor of non-residential property in Belarus, it manages a number of hotels and restaurants in Minsk, 4 national parks, a company which imports alcohol and tobacco, an enterprise which organizes national lotteries, manages construction for the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014 and others. In fact, President Property Management Department is a state-owned business empire with non-transparent financial management, which creates a favorable environment for corruption.
Regardless of this impressive economic impact, the President Property Management Department has no political influence. In 2004 its former head Zhuravkova, her subordinates and family members were convicted of embezzlement of more than USD 3.5 million from international trade operations (eventually Zhuravkova indemnified damages and was pardoned by the President). This high profile case had no political impact on the regime therefore the new trail against former President Property Management Department managers will have similar effects, not threatening the ruling group.
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.