States social responsibility shrinks
On June 5th, former presidential candidate and a political emigrant Andrei Sannikov was interviewed by Deutsche Welle.
In Belarus, the state’s social responsibility is consistently shrinking, while social and economic security risks are increasing. In the meanwhile, the increasing labour migration opportunities for Belarusians compensate the rising costs of the ruling group’s social policies.
In his interview, Sannikov reiterated his opposition to concessions by the EU and the U.S. in favor of the Belarusian regime (regarding recent lift of sanctions against some Belarusian companies) and talked against maintaining political contacts with Belarusian authorities within the Eastern Partnership Programme. He also urged the West to develop a long-term, consistent and joint policy towards Belarus.
To sum up, it seems that Sannikov’s team tactics is to convince the West to block all political and economic contacts with Belarus’ officials, which should result in a social explosion in Belarus, consequently enabling the united opposition to gain the power in the country. Currently Sannikov plays a consultant and expert role vis-à-vis Western politicians and coordinates ‘European Belarus’ campaign, which mainly runs Charter97.org website.
In particular, Sannikov said, that “Lukashenko is no longer the guarantor of security for the population and professionals, with the exception of a handful elite and businessmen”, which is justified. After 2011, economic risks have been consistently increasing in Belarus (currency devaluation), as well as security (the threat of terrorist attacks) and social risks (concessional housing construction and lease rules were revised).
Until now, social tensions in the country were manageable primarily due to migration opportunities within the Common Economic Space. Official statistics confirms the growth of labor migration from Belarus: employment in the economy is shrinking, alcohol and petrol sales are dropping, indicating men’s migration. Accordingly, currency cash inflow to the country from private persons is growing (USD 913 million in 2013).
However, the ongoing shrinking of the state’s social responsibility (administrative personnel reform, cancellation of benefits, opportunities for shadow incomes) will sooner or later reach its limits, creating a critical mass in the population whose standard of living has deteriorated and who cannot compensate it through labour migration. When it happens, the risks of mass unrest will rise dramatically, and the government will have to increase wages.
If so, Sannikov’s forecast – that when it happens the opposition will be able to unite and seize power from the ruling group – is highly questionable. Following 2010 Presidential elections, centrifugal trends developed in the Belarusian opposition and existing coalitions are only nominal, since they do not imply common programmes and structures for their members.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.