Presidential Administration and security forces taking over Government functions
On July 12th, head of the Presidential Administration, Andrei Kobyakov, held a regular meeting of the working group on construction industry reform.
Construction industry reform clearly demonstrates which public authorities are most trusted by President Lukashenko and, consequently, have the greatest influence. As a result, Prime Minister Myasnikovich can only draw attention to the Government by making provocative statements.
As a result of the working group’s meeting, Kobyakov instructed the government to harmonize the ratio of administrative personnel and the actual number of builders in the main building organizations according to existing standards by October 1st, 2013. In other words, the head of the Presidential Administration demanded reform in construction industry management. This is supposedly the Architecture and Construction Ministry’s responsibility, which reports to Prime Minister Myasnikovich.
The working group receives information about the state of affairs in construction from two entities close to the President: the KGB and the State Control Committee. Within the working group, representatives of the Architecture and Construction Ministry are checked up on and are systematically subject to criticism on TV (which is deserved).
This seizure of control over the construction industry by the Presidential Administration was anticipated. Since 2010, public administration bodies have been systematically narrowing down to those that President Lukashenko trusts the most. These include the President’s Administration and controlling and law enforcement agencies.
In turn, Prime Minister Myasnikovich is forced to respond to such a ‘raider’s’ intervention in his area of responsibility. It should be recognized that the Prime Minister has very little opportunity to resist the process of ‘public administration shrinking’. Myasnikovich’s response does not look convincing. During the Council of Ministers’ meeting on July 10th, Myasnikovich demanded to simplify and accelerate the construction under investment contracts. To this, KGB Chairman Jakobson said that the issue would be discussed during Kobyakov’s working group.
Finally, on July 12th, Myasnikovich supported the controversial idea to introduce tax for the unemployed (about 445,000 working age nationals do not work anywhere and enjoy social benefits). This statement indicates an unfolding crisis, as the government is unable to achieve the economic growth targets set by the Presidential Administration or to change the state’s economic policy. The Prime Minister has to draw attention to himself with such outrageous statements.
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.