Lukashenko enlisted Medvedev’s support
On 24 February Presidents of Belarus and Russia, Lukashenka and Medvedev issued a joint statement condemning the economic sanctions implemented by the U.S. and the EU against Belarus.
First of all, this statement should be regarded as Lukashenko’s personal statement. Thereby the President, who is perceived by the Belarusian business environment as the one to be blamed for the sanctions, demonstrates his indispensability in relations with the Kremlin. At the same time, the CES’ promise of support with Lukashenko’s mediation becomes an insurance policy for those businesses and oligarchs, who could be affected by the new economic sanctions.
It is worth to mention that the statement came out not as a result of the efforts undertaken by Lukashenko and his Administration, but rather of lobby by the First Vice-Prime Minister of Belarus Mr. Rumas, who addressed a letter to the leadership of the Eurasian Economic Commission on 15 February requesting for such support. Therefore the reciprocal gesture of the Administration of the Russian President should be considered as a support to the team of the Prime Minister Myasnikovich. Predictably the government’s role in the joint statement has not been mentioned so far.
If Presidential candidate Vladimir Putin signed the statement, it would have been more impressive. However in that case on behalf of Belarus it should have been signed by the Prime Minister Myasnikovich, becoming a dangerous challenge to the domestic influence of President Lukashenko.
Nevertheless, with the efforts of government officials, journalists and experts, the joint statement of Lukashenko and Medvedev was communicated to the Belarusian population as a sign of close friendship between the two presidents and as an evidence of support of President Lukashenko by a strong political and economic partner.
However, the mere appearance of the joint statement at the last moment, at 16:00 on Friday, 24 February, i.e. at the end of the last working day before Monday, 27 February, when a meeting of the Council of the EU is to take place, implies that Belarus assesses the probability of new sanctions as high and is afraid of such outcome.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.