August 30 – September 5, 2021
The ruling elite

Repression of the environmental sector and public sector protectionism

The situation has not changed
Repression of the environmental sector and public sector protectionism

The security forces’ identification and elimination of dissent continues on a diminished scale as previous raids upon the protest movement, civil society, and the media have reduced the number of viable targets. The state expects to partially compensate for budget shortfalls with expropriations from private businesses and support for state-owned construction companies at the expense of private-sector competitors.

A repressive agenda prevails in the communications between the Belarusian authorities and society.

The punitive campaign against demonstrators from August 2020 and protest movement activists continues with criminal cases, searches, arrests and detentions, harsh sentences and high fines.

Eco-activists and journalists are the latest targets of repression with the liquidation of “Ecodom” and a raid on “Akhova Ptushak Batskaushchyny”. The number of political prisoners increases to 657 people, as do the lists of “extremist” and “terrorist” media, organisations and activists. The authorities plan to block several YouTube and Telegram channels but are unlikely to succeed for technical reasons.

Declining budget revenues prompt the authorities to prepare to expropriate additional income from private businesses to compensate. For example, the company “Triple” was required to repay the Minsk municipal budget an amount equivalent to previously granted trading preferences.

State-owned construction companies are lobbying for restrictive measures to reduce the competitive advantages of private businesses, leading the Ministry of Construction to tighten requirements for certification.

The Government is also expanding protectionist measures in the consumer market against Czech, German and Polish washing powder.

The National Bank is managing to maintain foreign exchange and financial market stability, despite the costs imposed upon commercial banks due to Western sanctions and problems with international lending. For example, China froze USD 600 million at the Nizhyn combine construction site.

The budget deficit for July reduced to BYN 0.5 billion, supporting the Government’s optimism about maintaining a conservative economic course. However, funding has been cut in the sporting sphere due to the perceived disloyalty of national sports competitors and pressure on state budgets. Tensions are rising between the Federation of Trade Unions and the Government as official trade unions are disconcerted by broken promises to raise pensions.

Consequently, the influence and lobbying of state-owned companies are increasing against a background of the sanctions and confrontation with Western capitals.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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