State property privatization could lead to anti-corruption fight in state apparatus

November 21, 2016 9:07
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The Belarusian authorities avoid a wide public anti-corruption campaign and keep this topic low profile in order to reduce people’s discontent with the authorities. Meanwhile, the Belarusian leadership used anti-corruption prosecution to balance out different nomenclature and business groups in the regions and at the national level. Nevertheless, amid the decline in traditional economic sectors, attempts to redistribute state assets are likely to strengthen tension and spur anti-corruption inquests related to business interests.

According to the Global Corruption Barometer - 2016 by the Transparency International, 45% of Belarusians believe that the state is not doing enough to fight corruption.

The president seems to have abandoned the fight against corruption for quite a while now. He has clearly outlined the acceptable corruption level, which is determined by people’s attitudes and public discontent with public demonstration of personal well-being by representatives of the ruling elite. The lingering economic crisis and falling household incomes have distracted citizens from the corruption theme, which is not among the priority issues for the society, according to a study by Transparency International.

Nevertheless, corruption prosecution is among the mechanisms of redistributing the influence between regional nomenclature groups. The most recent high-profile case was in Bobruisk, where the city mayor Andrei Kovalenko was detained on suspicion of bribery. Kovalenko differed from the ‘conventional’ Belarusian mayors by being a more open, creative and somewhat democratic ruler.

In addition, apparently, the fight for state property in the centre of Minsk has prompted the president to look into the issue of transferring to the High-Tech Park a public building of Minsk Production Association of Computer Engineering. It is worth noting that so far, due to the economic success of the IT industry as compared with the traditional economic sectors, IT managers have been successful in defending their positions vis-a-vis the state and gradually promoting their interests.

The Belarusian leadership monitors corruption perceptions among the population in order to adjust the state anti-corruption measures and maintain government ratings.

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Death penalty discussion in Belarus: yet not ready for either abolition or moratorium
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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.