Lukashenko’s toughens rhetoric regarding government to deflect citizen’s criticism

April 22, 2016 18:52

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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.