Lukashenko’s toughens rhetoric regarding government to deflect citizen’s criticism
By toughening up rhetoric in relation to top officials and managers, President Lukashenko anticipates mobilising public officials and redirecting criticism from citizens. Meanwhile, President Lukashenko is not questioning the efficiency of Belarus’ economic model. The Government is unlikely to be dissolved as a result of the mid-year socio-economic review.
While visiting ‘Belaruskali’, President Lukashenko talked about potential personnel reshuffles in Belarus - from the government to top-managers at large enterprises.
After visiting ‘Belaruskali’, one of the largest exporters in Belarus which provides up to 30% of foreign exchange revenues, President Lukashenko announced plans to hold a reshuffle in the government and large state-owned enterprises: “if proper results are not achieved in the near future, we will reshuffle staff in the government and managers at large enterprises...”
After last year’s conflict between Ukralkali and Belaruskali, the latter managed to restore its production and exports. In Q1 2014, the company showed some growth, for instance, exports grew by 4.8% in value terms. The growth in foreign exchange proceeds was achieved due to a significant increase in physical exports – by almost 50%.
Other industrial giants, however, are not demonstrating a similar growth in exports. In January - May 2014, industrial production and agriculture continued to decline: by 1.3% and 4.3% respectively compared with 2013. Nevertheless, according to official reports, the government managed to ensure GDP growth by 1.5%.
The president underscored the need to ensure high-quality economic growth. And Economy Minister Snopkov said at the Council of Ministers’ meeting that decreasing inflation and devaluation expectations should be the key objective in 2015: "We believe it would be right not to stake on economic growth in 2015, since it is impossible to ensure performance of the two conflicting economic policy indicators - inflation and economic growth. In 2015, in order to balance out the economic situation, in our opinion, it is necessary to set inflation as a priority”. In addition, the president supported the Economy Ministry’s proposal to reduce funding of social programmes in favour of production.
It is worth noting that President Lukashenko voiced threats to dissolve the government back in Q1 2014. However, despite the government’s failure to meet GDP, production and export growth indicators, all senior government officials remained in their offices. So far, the government has managed to maintain macro-economic stability in the country and ensure some economic development, including keeping inflation-devaluation expectations of the population at bay.
It is unlikely that President Lukashenko will make major changes in the government before the presidential campaign starts in 2015. Radical changes in the government could have a negative impact on macro-economic stability and the stability of the national currency.
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.