Lukashenko offers to release political prisoners to resume a dialogue with the West
At a press conference for the Belarusian national and regional media on 17 June President Lukashenko declared his readiness to release political prisoners, provided the amnesty procedures were observed.
Belarusian President proposed to the West to bargain for “political prisoners in exchange for the resumption of relations”. First of all, Lukashenko is prepared to restore a dialogue with Poland by mentioning the leading role of Poland in the Eastern Europe.
Bearing in mind it is the second proposal of Lukashenko in the course of the past two weeks (reference to the meeting of judges on 3 June) the Belarusian leadership is doing its best to avoid economic reforms. The main recipients of these statements are member states of the IMF, its mission worked in Minsk on 1-13 June.
Given the lack of positive result of the IMF mission and that the conditions put forward for Belarus are not feasible and detrimental to the “created” welfare state and to the popularity of the President, the Belarusian authorities are trying to get away from implementing economic reforms and try to resolve the crisis with “small blood”: by releasing political prisoners. This option suits Minsk perfectly it has been tested in the summer of 2008, when a former Presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and other political prisoners were released.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.