Lukashenko appears to broaden nomenclature’s powers
With reduced public administration efficiency and fewer available resources to support the economic policy, president Lukashenko has no choice but to use new staff management methods. Lukashenko is not bringing the socio-political system into question, but has somewhat broadened the nomenclature’s powers. Ahead of the 2015 presidential campaign, Lukashenko needs to find additional ways to consolidate and mobilize public officials, given he has fewer resources to buy their loyalty with pay rises and social benefits.
On December 10th, the president held a national meeting at Minsk’s Independence Palace. Attended by 250 public officials from the Presidential Administration, Government, Parliament, various ministries, and other executives, including regional heads, the meeting addressed challenges in the construction industry and the government’s staffing policy. During the meeting, president Lukashenko did not question the centralized governmental system but sought to bolster public officials’ sense of responsibility by increasing their participation in the decision-making process.
Today president Lukashenko is the only politician who determines Belarus’ state policy. He has repeatedly said that all other members of the power system were managers whose task was to implement decisions taken by the President. However, in the face of shrinking external subsidies, this centralized public management system can no longer cope with managing the economy.
The president constantly reshuffles his top-managers and security officials, which brings some benefits and reduces the risks of nomenclature coup. However, these measures fail to improve public administration’s efficiency.
Failed modernization in the woodworking industry is probably the most obvious example of Lukashenko’s limited influence on his executives. Modernization in the woodworking industry started back in 2007, its deadlines were shifted many times and in 2013, directors were still working to fix the problems.
The president’s personnel policy has resulted in staff shortages, both at top- and mid-level management. On December 10th, Presidential Administration Head Andrei Kobyakov said “the Deputy Economy Minister’s chair has been vacant for nearly two years, while there are potential candidates. For a long time, such positions as Deputy Ministers of Architecture and Construction, Sports and Tourism, Director of the Department for control and supervision in construction at the State Committee for Standardization have been vacant”.
President Lukashenko seeks to preserve the existing socio-political system, and has broadened the nomenclature’s powers in decision-making only pro forma. On a larger scale, he is neither interested in changing the government’s institutional design, nor in allowing the nomenclature to create formal institutions for promoting their interests.
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.