New social contract raises costs for Belarusian population
While visiting the Grodno region last week, President Lukashenka said that citizens should seek jobs on their own, while the state would help them. The president has put several mutually contradicting tasks before the government, the National Bank and regional authorities: to ensure a USD 500 monthly wage (i.e. an increase by almost one-half) by the year-end, to ensure full employment by April 1st, and to ensure the Belarusian rouble stability and prevent its devaluation. The president finally defined the main purpose of the decree on social dependants as an ideological tool to ensure maximum employment while reducing people’s demands vis-a-vis the state. The authorities are likely to suspend layoffs at enterprises temporarily until the protest activity comes to a full stop, and provide low paid public works at the expense of local budget to all those looking for jobs. According to the authorities, high employment and financial prosecution of the unemployed would relax tension in society, discontent with current social and economic policies and would deprive street protests of a broad social base.
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.