Government wants to keep control over housing industry without stretching budget

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April 22, 2016 18:41

The state continues to search for additional resources to replenish the budget at the population’s expense. The budget deficit was partly patched up with revenues from the privatization of state-owned apartments. The deadline for state-owned apartments privatization was prolonged until 2016, so as not to aggravate citizens until after the presidential election. The government plans budgetary cuts on the state housing policy, but it is not willing to reduce its presence in this sphere.

Alexander Lukashenko endorsed a draft decree related to regulation of housing relations.

As of early 2013, 392,000 apartments (14% of the total housing stock) remain non-privatized in Belarus. The share of non-privatized housing (since Soviet era) is higher in the regions. About 182,000 people still possess ‘Housing’ cheques, which can be used to privatize the state-owned apartments they live in.

After the currency crisis in 2011, the government launched a housing policy revision slowly reducing its social orientation. The Government has gradually limited state soft loans and subsidies for housing construction. The Rental Housing Construction Programme was given priority, as well as transferring public housing stock into rental housing. The authorities plan to use proceeds from housing privatization to fill in the gap in budget revenues (circa BYR 17 trillion).

The Government initiative jeopardizes the disadvantaged – mostly retirees who predominate among state’s tenants. Many of them cannot afford to privatize (privatization costs vary between USD 4,000 and USD 35,000). Moreover, if housing and utility tariffs go up, they will be unable to pay for their premises. Most of these apartments will be transformed into social housing or rental housing without the right for privatization.

In addition, the conversion of public apartments into rental housing will increase tenants’ dependence on the state, which may bring political dividends.

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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.