Official Minsk gives in its influence to Moscow in the Belarusian Orthodox Church
Official Minsk has to yield to the pressure of Moscow and accept the Russian appointee to the post of the Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus in exchange for short-term economic benefits. Tendencies to develop the Belarusian Exarchate independently of the Russian Patriarchate are coming to a halt. Following short-term benefits, the Belarusian authorities keep on losing their influence in religious, military, economic and other areas of life in favour of Russia in the long run.
On December 25, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) appointed Pavel (Georgy Ponomarev), the Metropolitan of Ryazan and Mikhailov, the Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus.
Metropolitan Filaret headed the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC) since 1978 and the Belarusian Exarchate as of today was practically established by him. Under Filaret, the Belarusian Exarchate opened 10 dioceses, the number of parishes increased significantly, new monasteries and theological schools were established. Despite limited autonomy within the Moscow Patriarchate, the Belarusian Orthodox Church reached considerable independence in terms of internal development in the days of Filaret.
The formal plea for resignation ‘in connection with the 75th birthday’, as required by the statutes of the ROC, was filed by Metropolitan Filaret back in 2010. Practically unable to lead the BOC for health reasons, Filaret did not repeat his plea for resignation, which would have indicated the seriousness of his intentions. Still, almost four years later the Synod of the ROC suddenly complied with the request of Filaret and appointed its protégé as the head of the Belarusian Exarchate.
This being said, in his rhetoric, president A. Lukashenko tries to emphasize his independence in decision-making as regards the development of the Orthodox Church in Belarus. And he wanted to see his protégé at this post. The head of the state strongly patronized Archpriest Feodor Povny who was considered to be the most likely candidate for the post of the leader of the BOC.
It is noteworthy that president A. Lukashenko has repeatedly made statements about the need to reform the BOC thus increasing the threat of
distancing from the Moscow Patriarchate. In 2013 president A. Lukashenko refused to travel
to Kiev to celebrate the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Kievan Rus. During the first visit of Patriarch Kirill to Minsk in 2009 the head of the state ostentatiously did not come to hear the speech of the head of the ROC in the Palace of the Republic.
It is noteworthy that the appointment of Metropolitan Pavel as the head of the BOC took place on the same day when Russian President V. Putin decided to provide Belarus with a loan of USD 2 bn. Concurrently, the new metropolitan Pavel is notorious for his harsh anti-Western statements, as he is the supporter of the unity of ‘the Russian world’. Patriarch Kirill, while bidding farewell to the new head of the BOC, defined the primary mission of the newly elected metropolitan of the BOC as that of ‘keeping the unity of historical Russia’.
The decision to appoint a non-Belarusian citizen as the metropolitan of the BOC induced an extremely negative reaction on behalf of Belarusian citizens. One can note certain consolidation of opinion among the Belarusian society - regardless of political views - that would like to see a native of Belarus as the head of the BOC.
Thus, alongside the weakening of the Belarusian state, the Russian influence is going to aggravate in all areas of life of the Belarusian society. The growing dependence on external financing augments pressure from Moscow, while resources and capabilities of official Minsk to counter it are nearly fully depleted.
The rapid increase in wages has led to a decline in the ratio between labour productivity and real wages to one. Previously, the rule was that enterprises, in which the state owned more than 50% of shares in the founding capital, were not allowed increasing salaries if this ratio was equal to or less than one. The authorities are unlikely to be able to meet the wage growth requirement without long-term consequences for the economy. Hence, the government is likely to contain wage growth for the sake of economic growth.
According to Belstat, In January – August 2017, GDP growth was 1.6%. The economic revival has led to an increase in wages. In August, the average monthly wage was BYN 844.4 or USD 435, i.e. grew by 6.6% since early 2017, adjusted for inflation. This has reduced the ratio between labour productivity and real wages from 1.03 in January 2017 to 1 in the first seven months of 2017. This parameter should not be less than 1, otherwise, the economy starts accumulating imbalances.
The need for faster growth in labour productivity over wage growth was stated in Decree No 744 of July 31st, 2014. The decree enabled wages growth at state organizations and organizations with more than 50% of state-owned shares only if the ratio between growth in labour productivity and wages was higher than 1. Taking into account the state's share in the economy, this rule has had impact on most of the country's key enterprises. In 2013 -2014 wages grew rapidly, which resulted in devaluation in 2014-2015.
Faster wage growth as compared with growth in labour productivity carries a number of risks. Enterprises increase cost of wages, which subsequently leads to a decrease in the competitiveness of products on the domestic and foreign markets. In construction, wholesale, retail trade, and some other industries the growth rate of prime cost in 2017 outpaces the dynamics of revenue growth. This is likely to lead to a decrease in profits and a decrease in investments for further development. Amid wage growth, the population is likely to increase import consumption and reduce currency sales, which would reduce the National Bank's ability to repay foreign and domestic liabilities.
The Belarusian government is facing a dilemma – either to comply with the president’s requirement of a BYN 1000 monthly wage, which could lead to new economic imbalances and could further affect the national currency value, or to suspend the wage growth in order to retain the achieved economic results. That said, the first option bears a greater number of negative consequences for the nomenclature.
Overall, the rapid growth in wages no longer corresponds the pace of economic development. The government is likely to retain the economic growth and retrain further growth in wages. Staff reshuffles are unlikely to follow the failure to meet the wage growth requirement.