Socio-economic model: Gradual dismantling of the ‘Belarusian social state’
The Belarusian authorities continued reducing social obligations vis-a-vis the population while preserving the economic model based on state ownership. The state policy aimed to strip the population of excess income, including currency savings, in order to replenish the budget and service the public debt. For instance, the government introduced customs duty on international mail worth more than EUR 22, increased housing and communal services tariffs, froze average wage growth, reduced household incomes and introduced a tax on ‘social parasitism’.
In addition, in order to replenish the international reserves, the state encouraged the population to preserve a steady consumption level by spending their currency savings.
The Belarusian authorities decided against an advocacy campaign to promote positive image of the pension reform aiming to reduce pension benefits. The retirement age was increased by a presidential decree without a public debate due to the extreme unpopularity of this measure and fears of the authorities that publicity could have the opposite effect and drop the state institutions’ ratings.
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.