Lukashenko attempts to overcome international isolation via media
On January 15, President Lukashenko held a press conference for Belarusian and international mass media. The press conference lasted for almost 5 hours, was attended by over 350 journalists representing 285 media.
The main reason for the frequent meetings of Alexander Lukashenko with journalists in the last six months is the Belarusian President’s international isolation. Ad hoc interviews and press conferences partially fill in the vacuum in the absence of real international political activity.
The large number of international journalists taking part in the January press conference, emphasize the trend, which started in early 2011: during his 4th term, President Lukashenko is increasingly focusing on the Eurasian integration, and makes most of his foreign visits to Moscow. As a result, the authorities are trying to compensate for the “Kremlin misbalance” using information policy tools.
President Lukashenko’s public activity has increased since autumn 2012, for example, in October, he gave an interview to MIR TV and Radio Channel (CIS), the Independent and BBC (UK), he also called a traditional press conference for journalists from Russian regional media. In November and December he was interviewed by Reuters (UK) and met with members of the CIS media Editors Club. All these events took place in Minsk.
Content-wise the press conference on January 15 was of a routine and populist nature as usual. The President indicated there will be no major changes in the foreign policy of Belarus. In particular, he made it clear he was not going to release political prisoners without them asking for pardon. Thus, it is anticipated that in the near future the political conflict between Belarus and the EU and the U.S. will remain frozen.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.