Public sector lags behind in employees’ social protection
On September 1st, the first discharge tariff rate increased by 4%.
The announced wage increase in public sector cannot reduce the traditional gap with the average salary in the economy and is offset by growing prices on goods and services. The government lacks resources to continue the old social policy, and will seek to curb real incomes growth.
Conventionally, public sector salaries are among the lowest in the economy. According to the National Statistics Committee, in July 2013 the average monthly wage in education was USD 384, in health care – USD 450, in social services – USD 343, with the average wage in the economy USD 614. The government’s forecast for 2014 suggest that wages in the public sector will be circa 70 % of the average wage in the industry. Consequently, there is an outflow of human resources from the public sector, which will continue into next year.
Even a nominal increase in wages (due to increased first discharge tariff rate by 4%) will not improve the financial situation of public sector employees. As of August 29th, the prices of bread and bakery products will increase by 10%. On September 1st, the electricity tariff for the population increased by 12%. Excise tax on gasoline increased by 45 % and on diesel by 70%, which will result in increased costs for individuals and increase the production costs for industrial enterprises. As a result, in the near future prices will rise, including on the consumer goods. In addition, housing and utility tariffs may increase (an increase of 65% is planned for 2014).
The government wants to curb real wages growth. The economy is experiencing considerable difficulties, which results in decreased budget revenues and consequently, in cuts in various state programmes, including social benefits for the population. The state reduces eligibility criteria for receiving social assistance and readjusts its size. In 2014, the Social Security Fund may face a deficit of funds due to continuously deteriorating demographic situation. The government has no extra cash and therefore the level of social protection will be lower.
Public sector workers should realistically assess the feasibility for keeping their workplaces in terms of financial well-being, while the state should be prepared for staff shortages and unfulfilled vacancies in the public sector and should seek additional funds to improve social security protection in the public sector so as not to lose quality of staff.
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.