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August 20 – August 26, 2018
The ruling elite

The public dispute between industrialists and marketeers in the government has resumed; law enforcers are attempting to prevent growth in protests

The situation has not changed
The public dispute between industrialists and marketeers in the government has resumed; law enforcers are attempting to prevent growth in protests

Industrialists and law enforcers are attempting to shape a counter-reforms agenda and engage in a dispute with the new government led by supporter of market reforms Sergei Rumas. The pressure on independent media, trade unions and political protest activists is ongoing, most likely, due to the authorities’ concerns about the resumption of street protests in the autumn.

With the appointment of Sergei Rumas, a supporter of market reforms, as Prime Minister, the public debate between reformists and supporters of heavy subsidies in the public sector, has resumed. Industrialists and law enforcers are likely to be afraid to lose their influence on the redistribution of state resources amid liberalisation the new government is likely to embark on.

For instance, State Control Committee head Anfimov criticised the market economy and spoke in support for the planned economy in an article published in SB. Belarus Today, the voice of the presidential administration. The new government is likely to continue to pursue the financial stability policy and focus on improving the economy’s efficiency, retaining the public sector’s share.

Simultaneously, amid dwindling state resources, the new prime minister is likely to redirect the state support to most promising investment projects, curtailing appetites of industrialists and agro-barons for massive subsidies in the public sector.

Law enforcers continued to prosecute independent media, trade unions, and political protest activists. For instance, almost all suspects in the BelTA case have been summoned to the Investigation Committee. After the picket near the court in support for REP trade union leaders, over a dozen of activists, including BNK leader Statkevich, were detained by security officials and subjected to administrative arrest.

Despite the guilty verdict in the REP trade union case, the authorities enforced a mild punishment (four years of corrective labour), likely, due to the pressure from civil society and the international community. The authorities aspire to weaken trade unions’ influence on the labour movement, especially bearing in mind the enforcement of the decree on social dependants in late 2018.

Should the new government cut state subsidies to unprofitable public sector enterprises, industrialists and agro-barons are likely to step up pressure.

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