Lukashenko Brings Back His Old Team
On January, 8 President Alexander Lukashenko appointed Viktor Sheiman President Aide for special instructions. Viktor Sheiman was relieved of the post of the President Aide for special instructions in the State Secretariat of the Security Council.
The comeback of Viktor Sheiman under direct supervision of president Lukashenko can be explained by a number of factors, such as a deficit of trusted personnel, termination of an important project on supplies of oil from Venezuela, and also risk of losing control over law enforcement agencies during the period of the reform.
The appointment of Viktor Sheiman, who is Lukashenko’s longtime supporter and one of the creators of the whole Belarusian system of law enforcement bodies, can be viewed as a promotion. Previously, since 2008 Sheiman had been supervising Belarus-Venezuela relationships and was Chairman of the Bilateral Commission on trade. Also, he was the President Aide for special instructions in the State Secretariat of the Security Council.
The higher status of the President Aide for special instructions “legalizes” his existing high informal status in the system of state governance in Belarus.
The major reason for this appointment is a deficit of trust within the ruling group that has become even sharper after Minsk maneuver to improve relations with the West failed in 2010. Since then, the president’s employment policy has been characterized by attempts to distance the officials involved in that unsuccessful maneuver.
In contrast, the managerial positions which are the most important and closest to the president are occupied by those who are most loyal to Lukashenko (Deputy Prime Ministers Tozik and Kalinin, aides Prokopovich and Sheiman). An unresolved political conflict with the West suggests that the process of personnel rotation in Lukashenko’s surrounding will continue in 2013.
Another reason for bringing Sheiman closer to the President is the end of the project on oil supplies from Venezuela to Belarus. As a curator of this project, Sheiman has successfully performed his task and provided Lukashenko with a foreign trade “alibi” necessary for negotiations with Russia. Therefore, in the President’s view, he well deserves to be promoted.
Finally, Viktor Sheiman, as a creator of the modern Belarusian system of law enforcement agencies, is needed by the President to control the implementation of law enforcement bodies reform.
The scandalous case of the “teddy bears bombing” in summer 2012 and the tragic suicide of a KGB officer demonstrated that president Lukashenko’s eldest son Viktor cannot control law enforcers. On the contrary, his badly planned actions, as well as the actions of his subordinates, threaten the stability of Lukashenko’s regime. It is highly likely that Sheiman has been given an informal task to “restore order” in law enforcement agencies.
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.