Lukashenko delays government’s resignation due to staff scarcity
President Lukashenko lacks a pool of trusted experts to nominate government officials capable of reversing todays’ negative economic trends. Some unpopular measures are planned for 2014 and the current government will be held responsible for their deliverance.
Despite failure to achieve the projected economic development indices, and Lukashenko’s threats, the government remains intact. Back in early 2013, the president emphasized that “a repetition of the situation of the previous year would result in the Government’s immediate resignation”. But recently, Lukashenko gave the current Government another chance, noting that “the situation is unlikely to change radically in the remaining month”. It should be noted that the government managed to meet some key economic indicators, such as size of GDP, industrial production volumes and fixed asset investment. The main objective of the socio-economic development plan – income growth – was achieved too.
The government’s priorities will change in the immediate future. Instead of trying to implement the unrealistic gross performance indicators, Lukashenko wants the Government to focus on improving the competitiveness of Belarusian industry. Lukashenko emphasized this and proposed to set ‘warehouses unload’ as the main criterion for evaluating the Government’s work. The president has actually confirmed the failure of modernization plans and acknowledged the problem with overloaded stocks at modernized enterprises. The Government reported that over half of the 711 largest enterprises failed their modernization plans: about 20% could not cope with modernization, and 37% lag behind schedule.
In addition, it seems that Lukashenko’s harsh rhetoric and threats vis-à-vis directors and managers, has had an opposite effect to mobilization – it has paralyzed managers’ initiatives.
As the current government’s credibility has not been exhausted entirely, it gives the president the opportunity to hold it responsible in the future for implementing unpopular measures aiming to replenish the state budget at citizens’ costs. The draft budget for 2014 lists revenues from vehicle tax, which has been proposed recently by the Finance Ministry. It is noteworthy that this proposal was so unpopular that it even sparked outrage among some Parliamentarians. According to the draft budget, in 2014 prices will go up on excisable goods and services subsidized from the state budget.
President Lukashenko retains the possibility for him to change the Government before the 2015 presidential campaign and hold it responsible for many socio-economic failures in recent years. Meanwhile, Lukashenko does not have a huge pool of managers who he could trust with holding top-level positions in the government.
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.