The Russian public lobby is getting stronger in Belarus
The Constituent Assembly of the Public Association \"Eurasian Peoples’ Union\" (EPU) took place in Minsk on March 25. A former director of the Information and Analytical Center of the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus Yury Baranchik was elected Chairman of the organization.
The establishment of the EPU is another attempt to create a social movement in Belarus which would represent an ideological and geopolitical alternative to European-oriented democratic NGOs. The authorities’ most likely response to this action will be a hidden opposition.
According to the charter of a new and not-yet-registered NGO, the main objective of the EPU is to promote the construction of the Eurasian Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. This initiative is extremely timely, since it occupies a vacant niche in the Belarusian public and ideological support of Eurasian integration. Democratic NGOs operating in Belarus traditionally only support European integration of Belarus.
Voluntary work in the field of Eurasian integration is a new and urgent direction for Belarus. It has been monopolized by a small circle of government officials from the presidential administration mainly on projects of the Union State of Belarus and Russia. After the launch of the Single Economic Space the area of cooperation expanded rapidly, which the EPU made use of. The EPU has already announced plans to promote the state and public partnership between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
The EPU’s leadership is not associated with the traditional opposition movement and is known for its moderate criticism of the Belarusian authorities. Obviously, the EPU is planning a further transformation into a political organization, but it is also clear that the Belarusian authorities will have their counteraction, since they have no interest in the appearance of uncontrollable social and political actors, especially in the Eurasian area. The first test of the Belarusian authorities’ intentions will be the Ministry of Justice’s response to a registration request from the EPU.
The country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.