Benefits of the Eurasian Integration, Jobless Belarusians, Code of Conduct For Officials - Belarus State TV Digest

Over the last few weeks Belarusian state TV devoted much attention to discussing Eurasian Union integration, how to make officials nicer and the alleged low level of unemployment in Belarus. It also proudly reported Belarus's high ranking in the Human Development Index.

Compared to other coverage over the last few weeks, less attention was paid to Ukraine with only a short story about the Ukrainian elections which went off rather quietly and will certainly be recognised by Belarus.

Domestic Affairs: New Code of Conduct for Officials, Jobless Belarusians

Michail Arda: the new head of the officially recognised trade unions. According to the coverage, the new leader of the biggest public organisation in Belarus was elected in an “open election process”. According to state Channel 1, the newly elected head of the official trade unions, a former head of the pro-Lukashenka BRSM youth organisation, wants to increase its cooperation with Belarusian youth.

What to do with “useless” people? State Channel 1 was particularly preoccupied with the question about what to do with 400 thousand Belarusians that are not contributing anything to the Belarusian economy. In a video aired by the Channel 1 Lukashenka harshly told off those who do not work but use healthcare system, education and other social services. The same applies to the migrants from Ukraine: they should find employment as soon as possible in order to avoid conflicts with their Belarusian “brothers/Slavs”, according to Lukashenka.

22 thousand people remained jobless despite over 50 thousand available vacancies in the country

There is a job for every Belarusian. On another occasion, state TV covered a job fair that took place in Minsk. The coverage emphasised that officially 22 thousand people remained jobless despite over 50 thousand available vacancies in the country. Unemployment in Minsk remains the lowest in the country and reached only 0.2%. About a third of employers offers salaries between 5 million BYR (around $470) and 15 million BYR ($1,404).

Who should be more honest and nice. During a recent round of appointments’ of new officials, Alexander Lukashenka spoke about how officials should have a “human approach” towards peoples’ problems, particularly leading up to the upcoming elections. The elections will be like an “exam” for the authorities, thus they should do their best to act fairly and honestly towards Belarusians.

According to Lukashenka, some people suggested that the elections should take place earlier. Some believe that this would help secure voters' support for him, but he was not in favour of having the elections that early. “This would deceive people”, the head of the state pointed out.

Belarus: a leader among the post-Soviet countries. Belarusian state TV proudly reported that according to a report by the UN on Human Development, Belarus ranked 53rd out of 187 countries. It even climbed in the rankings in terms of gender-equality, scoring 28th overall.

Hopes for more money from the International Monetary Fund. ONT TV covered a meeting of between prime-minister, Michail Miasnikovych, and the head of the IMF mission to Belarus. So far the cooperation between the organisation and Belarus remain on good terms, primarily due to Minsk’ discipline in paying off its $3.5bn loan.

How will the Eurasian Union change the life of ordinary Belarusians?

In a recent episode of the talk show “Dielo principa” on ONT TV, hosted by Vadzim Hihin, guests discussed Belarus's integration into the Eurasian Union.

The Eurasian Union: an opaque project. One of the guest speakers, Andrej Karpunin, chairman of the Republican Club of Financial Executives, noted that the integration with the Eurasian Union has brought up more questions than it has answered for Belarus. Belarusian MPs Nikolai Samosiejka and Aliaksandr Shpakouski, director of the Information-Analytical Centre, strongly disagreed. Shpakouski argued that there was no real alternative for Belarus other than the Eurasian Union.

“Belarusian business concerned about the integration”. Borys Miednik, a Belarusian businessman who was also on the show, openly aired his concerns regarding the trying competitive environment in the Eurasian market. The competition would be particularly harsh for smaller Belarusian entrepreneurs like himself. Another guest, a businessman from Kazakhstan, painted a picture a rosier picture of the economic bloc, emphasising the potential benefits that the common economic zone would bring to business in all three countries.

integration was not a panacea for the Belarusian economy, but rather an opportunity

“Belarus and Russia are interdependent”. The participants discussed the efficiency of the Belarusian economy and the subsidies it receives from Moscow. In the opinion of Shpakouski, both countries have very close economic ties. The fact that Belarus remains one of Russia's top business partners makes the economies of both countries interdependent, in his opinion.

“It will be more expensive and difficult” after the period of integration with the Eurasian Union, said Andrej Karpunin. Looking ahead at the next two years, Belarusians should expect a significant increase in prices. Shpakouski commented that integration was not a panacea for the Belarusian economy, but rather an opportunity. All of guests agreed that Belarusian society does not know enough about the integration project with the Eurasian Union.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials available on the web site of Belarusian State Television 1 (BT1) and ONT TV. Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

Paula Borowska is an analyst of the Ostrogorski Centre. Originally from Bialystok, she studied at the University of Gdansk and the University of Bologna.

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