"Social parasites" decree will be reviewed
Following social discontent with the decree on ‘social parasites’, President Lukashenka said the regulation would be reviewed. The government is not ready to implement rigid policies and, de facto, it has decided to test-drive decisions first. Nevertheless, despite the government back out, the overall trend of tightening social framework and reducing the State’s obligations vis-à-vis citizens will remain.
The decree on ‘social parasites’ has been extensively criticized in the independent media. Many noted that the decree was inconsistent with other laws in Belarus, including the Constitution. Independent analysts said that the decree would not achieve any of its goals: if the main goal was to replenish the state budget, the implementation costs would be too high to achieve this; if the goal was to keep workers at work amid falling wages, labour mobility would still increase. In addition, it would not help restoring social justice, whatever was meant by that. Moreover, the new regulation would entail increased workload for the Tax Ministry and the labour market.
Interestingly, while the decree has been criticised only by the independent media, experts and opposition, the population has not shown any real discontent. Nevertheless, referring to the independent media, the president has found it necessary to explain the motivation behind the decree and promised to correct the shortcomings.
However, not only the criticism in the independent media has encouraged the authorities to back out with the decree. Regardless of the fact that the decree has been on the table for quite a while, interests and competencies of agencies designated to implement it have not been properly coordinated. In the last two years, the government has been making weak decisions more frequently. For instance, the Health Ministry’s clumsy attempts to lobby interests of Belarusian pharmaceuticals, by introducing exit fees for Belarusians traveling abroad, bizarre regulations by the Finance Ministry in late 2014, attempts to tighten screws for individual entrepreneurs and many other ill-considered initiatives.
The executive branch does not seem to be able to cope with the growing legislative burden (laws and decrees are drafted by the Presidential Administration department), as well as with overseeing implementation of the laws. Nevertheless, the executive is not willing to delegate some of its powers to the Parliament or other agencies.
In the given circumstances, the state is likely to reduce its social protection to the population and transfer social security burden on citizens, rather than proportionally diminish the state apparatus. Inevitably, this will lead to ill-considered decision-making that the state would be unable to implement and, consequently, would back out and review its decisions.
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.