The ruling group is strengthening control over assets which it considers important
Financial instability increases political risks and forces Lukashenko’s entourage to strengthen control over the property in the country. In practice this means the abandonment of the project ‘liberalization’, which was carried out in Belarus in 2008 – 2010.
On October 25th, President Lukashenko demanded to improve management efficiency at enterprises with sate shares.
A meeting at Presidential Administration concerning measures to improve the public shares management aimed to strengthen and foster the “success” from the partial re-privatization of Kommunarka and Spartak confectioneries. In particular, Lukashenko criticized the supervisory boards’ actions at enterprises with mixed ownership, which give “away all of the major decisions at Director’s mercy”, rather than securing public interests.
During the meeting it was proposed that the chairman of the supervisory board in a company with state shares (where the number of employees is 15 000 and higher) should be appointed by the President, i.e. he/she should not be subordinated to the investor. Earlier Lukashenko issued Decree № 8, allowing the Presidential Administration to issue additional shares at so-called strategic enterprises.
If these measures are implemented, the government will retain control over the most important public companies, even without the controlling shares. In a way it means that a so called ‘golden share’ rule, abolished in March 2008, is being resurrected. Instead, a ‘Golden Chairman of the Board’ rule could be introduced.
Simultaneously with the adoption of these unpopular among Belarusian nomenclature and business measures, the President reinforces populist patriotic rhetoric. On October 26th, took place a scathing meeting to discuss the Belarusian Olympic team performance in London, where the head of state suggested the Minister of Sport and Tourism, the Presidential Aide for Sport and the two Vice-Chairman of the National Olympic Committee to resign.
In populist terms, these measures look advantageously: both, the seizure of confectioneries from ‘oligarch bloodsuckers’ and returning them back to children, as well as restoring order among the gray mass of corrupt officials. However, for the successful mobilization of the state apparatus President Lukashenko needs to have the mass support of the population. Recent opinion polls show that today the President’s popularity is very low (30%), and that pure populist rhetoric fails to improve it.
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.