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.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.