Outcomes for 2015, Forecast for 2016
Outcomes for 2015: a deep recession and dim prospects for economic recovery
Forecast for 2016: conservation outguns innovation
Most important trends in 2015
- Conservation of the socio-economic model
- Increased demand for systemic transformations in the Belarusian society, especially in the economy
- People’s expectations of the state’s social protection lowered
- The state cut social guarantees to the population
- Some political elite acknowledged recession and the need for reforms
- The government divided into supporters of market reforms and antireform conservatives
- Reduced capacity for mobilisation for both, the authorities and the opposition
- Cautious neutrality in foreign policy
- Minsk earned a reputation of a peacekeeper
- Enhanced attention to national security
Main threats in 2016
- Tensions and protest moods in society will rise due to falling living standards and a cutback on social protection
- Deeper economic recession due to the lack of political will to reform the existing socio-economic model
- The Kremlin will step up pressure to deploy a Russian military air base in Belarus in exchange for financial aid and loans
- Amid dwindling state resources and fewer opportunities to distribute budgetary and export flow of funds, conflicts in nomenclature and state sidekick businesses will mount
- Minsk and Brussels will exhaust potential for reciprocal concessions in the process of Belarusian-European normalization
Most likely trends for 2016
- The state will imitate reforms in order to obtain external financing
- The likelihood of real economic reforms will depend on oil prices’ dynamics
- The state apparatus will step up the struggle for the redistribution of resources
- The opposition will reshape before the parliamentary elections
- Minsk will anchor its peacekeeping reputation and neutrality on the international arena
- Belarus will evade direct involvement in inter-state conflicts on the Russian side
- The authorities will abandon practices of supporting employment at any cost
- Industrial production capacity will continue to reduce
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.