President Lukashenka steers clear of publicly discussing socio-economic agenda
President Lukashenka has taken a back seat and has not made any important socio-economic and political decisions for a while. In addition, due to the absence of clear guidance from the president, the state apparatus lacks a common vision of the country’s development. The Belarusian bureaucracy is unlikely to take the initiative to develop and implement important decisions; the latter could lead to the accumulation of problem issues in the case the president continues to hold aloof.
During a working meeting with Presidential Administration Head Natalia Kochanova, President Lukashenka has announced several major events.
Despite the plans to revise the decree on social dependants by April 1st and ensure 100% employment by May 1st, the Belarusian leadership avoids raising these issues in public due to their controversial nature and unpopularity of the proposed solutions. Decisions on privatisation of state property and economic development are either pending or disregarded. In addition, despite the initial readiness to amend the election legislation after the 2016 parliamentary elections, and recommendations elaborated by the Central Election Commission by February 1st this year, the president has not resumed the discussion on this matter.
The last time when the president held a meeting with the participation of 250 representatives of the power vertical was in late 2013. Regardless of periodic announcements, the president has held aloof from holding such large-scale meetings on current affairs, which is most likely to be due to the lack of new effective responses to the economic and social policy challenges.
President Lukashenka has suspended from making strategic decisions and adjusting the state policy, which could be due to the lingering economic recession and the authorities’ inability to find a way out of the crisis. The top management is more often proposing and implementing scathing initiatives, such as the ‘decree on social dependants’ or adjustments in the secondary school hours.
Overall, the lack of a clear guidance from the top leadership has hampered the state apparatus. In addition, if the president continues to hold aloof from making important political decisions, the probability of imbalances in the power vertical will increase.
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.