Special services of Belarus expand their powers

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April 22, 2016 17:48

Tightening of the Belarusian legislation is, in the first place, a sign of interdepartmental struggle for growing scanty state budget. Even if adopted by the Parliament, these amendments will have little effect on the activities of the opposition and civil society.

Draft amendments to the Law governing the KGB, submitted to the House of Representatives by the Council of Ministers significantly expand the powers of the Belarusian security services.

Comment

Tightening of the Belarusian legislation is, in the first place, a sign of interdepartmental struggle for growing scanty state budget. Even if adopted by the Parliament, these amendments will have little effect on the activities of the opposition and civil society.

The initiators of the amendments envisaged to increase public funding of the security agencies, namely, the KGB, the State Control Committee, the Presidential Security Service, etc. The bill indicates the intensification of the fight for financial resources within the government. These amendments have been initiated concurrently with the review of the draft budget for 2012, which is being debated by the government at the moment and must be adopted in November 2011.

These amendments have been initiated concurrently with the review of the draft budget for 2012, which is being debated by the government at the moment and must be adopted in November 2011.

Contrary to popular interpretation, the main purpose of this bill is not to intensify political repressions. First of all, the Belarusian authorities already have a wide range of legal powers to put pressure on the opposition and civil society activists. Secondly, the most stringent and effective repressions the authorities traditionally implemented by semi-legal or illegal means, as it was during a series of detentions and searches of politicians and journalists last winter and in summer during the street flash mobs dispersed by plain clothes law enforcement officers.

The criticism about the accountability of intelligence agencies for their actions under the new law is fairly reasonable (see reference below). However, this part of the draft law mainly repeats the provisions of the Belarusian Law “On the Internal Affairs” of 2007. Therefore the proposed draft law was meant to balance out the powers of the law enforcement agencies, for instance, the KGB and the Ministry of Interior, rather than give the intelligence services repressive super powers.

Therefore, the most logical explanation of the reasons behind the draft law is not the reinforcement of the repressions against the opposition, rather the reinforcement of the intelligence services’ position vis-?-vis the Ministry of Interior, while preparing for the fight for funding in 2012.

Therefore the proposed draft law was meant to balance out the powers of the law enforcement agencies, for instance, the KGB and the Ministry of Interior, rather than give the intelligence services repressive super powers.

Moreover, the amendments would also be used as a stake in negotiations between the Belarusian authorities and the West. By increasing the atmosphere of repression, the Belarusian authorities draw attention of the EU and the USA and use it as leverage. The authorities imply that if rapprochement takes place, the political regime could be loosened, for instance, the Parliament will not adopt the amendments. The situation is similar to the one with political hostages of the Belarusian authorities.

Reference

Amendments to the Law of Belarus “On State Security Agencies of the Republic of Belarus” stipulate that KGB officers would have the right to “freely” break at any time of day or night into people`s homes and other premises, excluding the premises of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations enjoying diplomatic immunity, as well as the residence of their personnel, while “pursuing a suspected criminal or having sufficient grounds for assuming that a crime has been or is being committed or a person is hiding from criminal justice authorities on the premises.”

The bill would allow KGB officers to use “physical force, including martial arts and impromptu means,” while preventing a crime or arresting a suspect.  KGB officers would not bear any responsibility for any harm done as a result of the use of physical force, special means, and combat and special equipment if they acted in “justified professional risk” situations or under the conditions of extreme necessity.

 

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Growth in real wages may disrupt macroeconomic balance in Belarus
October 02, 2017 12:12
Фото: Дмитрий Брушко, TUT.BY

The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.

According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.

The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.

Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.

The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.

Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.