Parliamentarians start re-election campaign
Statement of Speaker of the Belarusian Parliament Andreychenko implies support to the Presidential Administration during the autumn Parliamentary election campaign. Given that the Belarusian Parliament has no real levers of influence on the economic policy, the statement of the Speaker has only a propaganda implication.
On 26 January while visiting the JSC Poultry Factory “Friendship”, Speaker of the Belarusian Parliament Vladimir Andreychenko said that by the end of the year incomes of Belarusians should reach the end of 2010 level.
There could be only one reason for making such populist statements, i.e. to indicate support to the Presidential Administration during the election campaign, which could guarantee the re-election to the new Parliament. Against the backdrop of the continuing crisis in the world and in Belarus, a 4-year parliamentary mandate becomes a very attractive employment contract. Within the political system of Belarus, status of an MP is associated with minimum liability and the Parliament per se has become a place where Belarusian nomenclature representatives finish their careers.
It is highly probable that Andreychenko’s colleagues in the Parliament will support the Speaker’s populist programme. The more so, some governors have already expressed their wish to take part in such “salary conspiracy”. On January 27, the governor of Mogilev region Mr. Rudnick said that by December 2012 the average wage in the region was expected to increase by 64% as compared with December 2011. Previously, similar plans to ensure an average wage of USD 500 by the end of 2012 have been voiced by Vitebsk region governor Alexander Kosinets.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.