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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.