Minsk Retains its Internal Policy
On 8 September, the Chairman of Belarus’ Central Election Commission, Yarmoshina, said that reforming the election legislation was undesirable. Last week, a number of high-ranking officials stated that it was unacceptable to sell Belarus’ national assets.
The current task for the Belarusian authorities is to maintain the status quo. It is not expected that they will fulfill the political demands both of the West (such as the release of political prisoners and democratic reforms) and of Russia (the privatization of enterprises under the loan program of the EurAsEC).
Last week, Yarmoshina said that there were no plans to transform the standing majority electoral system into a proportional one. Later on, two of the three First Deputy Prime Ministers, Vladimir Semashko and Sergei Rumas, stated that privatizing major Belarusian companies (Belaruskali and BelAZ) would be a crime against the Belarusian people and was not acceptable.
Such “tough rhetoric” is explained by Minsk’s unwillingness to fulfill the demands of the Kremlin and the West to carry out reforms. At the same time, such demands increase the unanimity within the governmental bodies on the most worrying issue: the privatization of the Belarusian enterprises within the frameworks of agreement on cooperation with the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund. The issue will be discussed during Putin’s visit to Minsk on 31 May.
As it has already been indicated, the Belarusian authorities have no long-term strategy.
However, there was significant growth in Belarusian foreign trade in the first quarter of 2012 due to favourable terms for trade in oil and oil products with Russia. Minsk wants to derive a maximum short-term benefit from this situation as well as to put off making economic and political concessions. It increasingly uses extremely adventurous but highly lucrative smuggling schemes to re-export Russian oil products without paying export taxes to Russia.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.