Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Tax manoeuver of Russia in oil refining prevents Belarus from having foreign trade surplus in 2015

Belarus in focus

Following social discontent with the decree on social parasites, President Lukashenka said the regulation would be reviewed. The government is not ready to implement rigid policies and, de facto, it has decided to test-drive decisions first. Nevertheless, despite the government back out, the overall trend of tightening social framework and reducing the States obligations vis-à-vis citizens will remain.

The decree on social parasites has been extensively criticized in the independent media. Many noted that the decree was inconsistent with other laws in Belarus, including the Constitution. Independent analysts said that the decree would not achieve any of its goals: if the main goal was to replenish the state budget, the implementation costs would be too high to achieve this; if the goal was to keep workers at work amid falling wages, labour mobility would still increase. In addition, it would not help restoring social justice, whatever was meant by that. Moreover, the new regulation would entail increased workload for the Tax Ministry and the labour market.

Interestingly, while the decree has been criticised only by the independent media, experts and opposition, the population has not shown any real discontent. Nevertheless, referring to the independent media, the president has found it necessary to explain the motivation behind the decree and promised to correct the shortcomings.

However, not only the criticism in the independent media has encouraged the authorities to back out with the decree. Regardless of the fact that the decree has been on the table for quite a while, interests and competencies of agencies designated to implement it have not been properly coordinated. In the last two years, the government has been making weak decisions more frequently. For instance, the Health Ministrys clumsy attempts to lobby interests of Belarusian pharmaceuticals, by introducing exit fees for Belarusians traveling abroad, bizarre regulations by the Finance Ministry in late 2014, attempts to tighten screws for individual entrepreneurs and many other ill-considered initiatives.

The executive branch does not seem to be able to cope with the growing legislative burden (laws and decrees are drafted by the Presidential Administration department), as well as with overseeing implementation of the laws. Nevertheless, the executive is not willing to delegate some of its powers to the Parliament or other agencies.

In the given circumstances, the state is likely to reduce its social protection to the population and transfer social security burden on citizens, rather than proportionally diminish the state apparatus. Inevitably, this will lead to ill-considered decision-making that the state would be unable to implement and, consequently, would back out and review its decisions.