Tighter public policy – reaction to lack of resources
On February 26th, at the Council for Business Development meeting President Lukashenko said that he would persecute any attempts by businesses to participate in politics.
Lack of human and financial resources forces President Lukashenko to tighten his policy towards business and government as well as the internal governmental policies. However, neither nomenclature, nor business yet show any signs of opposition to the ruling group.
Lukashenka’s harsh statements are a forced reaction to the lack of resources in the Belarusian economy. He send a warning not only to businesses, but to the government too: on March 1st he threatened to sack all those who failed to fulfill the ambitious plan for economic growth in 2013. In particular, the President pointed that the government’s assessment of investments in the economic modernization were overestimated by 25% and demanded spending cuts.
This behavior is typical of Alexander Lukashenko as he is definitely preparing for the next presidential election in 2015, therefore he tightens both, the internal discipline in the nomenclature and business elites (threating of reprisals), and the voters’ trust (by usual populist and indicative devastating critique of bureaucracy).
However, it should be noted that the President is not only limited in financial resources, but also lack trust to his assistants who are responsible for monitoring compliance with his orders. The most striking example is the case of the former head of the National Bank, 72-year old Peter Prokopovich, who in the last few months was empowered as Deputy Prime Minister, appointed responsible for the implementation of the industrial modernization programme, as well as the Representative of Belarus to the Eurasian Economic Commission, and, finally, as Chairman of the Board in the Business Development Council.
Thus, President Lukashenko’s harsh statements should be regarded as a demonstration of power, and as an attempt to compensate for an acute shortage of financial and human resources in the government. At the same time, neither the President’s environment, nor the Belarusian business show interest in exploiting the government’s weaknesses. Law enforcement agencies remain under the President’s control and yet effectively neutralize all the disloyalty manifestations.
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.