State Personnel Policy: staff and loyalty shortages
Analysis of the President Lukashenko’s government staffing policy reform in 2013 shows its two features. Firstly, officials close to President Lukashenko have increased their influence and so-called Prime Minister Myasnikovich group weakened. Secondly, ruling elite’s authority is not sustainable and could change rapidly. State power’s sustainability is increasingly dependent on President Lukashenko and a small group of his closes’ health.
In Q1 2013 the most distinct feature of the personnel policy is Deputy Prime Minister Petr Prokopovich’s administrative weight sharp increase. In particular, once appointed, he was introduced to 10 different state boards and high level commissions, as a head in 7 of them. Thus, today Prokopovich formally oversees a broad variety of public policy areas: from entrepreneurial development and taxation simplification to industrial modernization and public assets privatization.
Most likely, President Lukashenko’s confidence in Prokopovich is due to the crisis of confidence within the ruling group. Empowering one person with numerous responsibilities primarily indicates there is a deficit of loyal and trusted aides. In these circumstances, President Lukashenko has to turn a blind eye to the age and health of 73-year old Prokopovich, who in 2011 had a major heart surgery and retired.
Simultaneously to Prokopovich’s strengthening positions, since 2012 Sergei Rumas from Prime Minister Myasnikovich team has been losing his positions in government decision-making. Since early 2013 Rumas, who in July 2012 was appointed Chairman of the Board at Development Bank, was consistently taken out of various inter-agency councils and commissions (state statistics, price control, Logistics, stock trading, international financial reporting standards and others). In this context, Prime Minister Myasnikovich’s appointment as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Development Bank in January 2013 is yet another prove of this trend.
Therefore, Belarus’ public policy is far more personalistic than clan-based. Influence groups’ size within Belarusian ruling elite are relatively small and limited to the most senior officials’ inner circle (the President or Prime Minister), which makes them relatively easily replaceable. On the contrary, confidence deficit significantly increases the burden on officials from the president’s inner circle, increasing managerial risks during crisis or in case of President’s or his current favourites’ potential health problems.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.