Strategic approach to reforms
Belarus’ increasingly active foreign policy is going to be complemented with respective major shifts in interior policy
Being driven by international developments that vested Belarus with a new regional role, the Belarusian leadership resumes a strategic approach not only to its foreign policy, but also to the country’s domestic development.
The situation is such that, the question on probability of major, structural reforms in Belarus is not a correct one. The reforms will take place, no matter what happens. The right question is: when and how will they take place?
First of all, the Belarusian reforms are already underway: the Government has raised retirement age; altered utilities fees to make them closer to real. Belarus implements financial and fiscal policies generally in line with international financial institutions’ recommendations. The country is now reshaping the system of state support to ensure equal opportunities for state-owned and private enterprises. More will follow shortly, including labour market liberalisation, optimisation of state enterprises and other measures.
Second, Belarusian reforms do not aim to contract state sector and expand the private sector. Although such effect is implied as one of the outcomes, it is not set as a goal. Belarus will go the way of increasing the effectiveness of state-owned enterprises.
Third, the authorities will also pursue liberalisation policies. Those will not be universal, but rather aimed at promoting development of new and smaller businesses that could absorb the workforce released from optimised or bankrupt state-owned enterprises. Those businesses will enjoy favourable tax regimes for a couple of years, they will be protected from administrative pressure from regional authorities and supported otherwise.
Fourth, the country now has a whole number of highly realistic flagship projects like the Great Stone China-Belarus Industrial Park, further development of the High-Tech Park, Belarusian NPP, announced ambitious projects in military-industrial complex. There’s also a number of other major projects under elaboration involving top companies from the USA and Europe.
All those measures mentioned further imply serious changes in spheres of social development. They will help shape Belarus as an important regional stakeholder opening the door for a wider co-operation between the integration initiatives implemented in the region.
Yuri Tsarik, Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies