Ideological Restrictions on Employment in Belarus – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Belarusian experts analyse discrimination in the workplace based on political convictions, social networks preferences of Belarusians, the effect of income increase on political loyalty and media coverage of parliamentary elections among other topics.
Idiological Emloyment Restrictionsin Belarus -Tatiana Vodolazhskaya Andrei Shutov (Centre for European Transformation) present an analysis of politically motivated employment restrictions in Belarus. The experts consider employment ban as any barriers to employment based on ideological and political reasons. One of the main ways to implement employment discrimination is a fixed term contract system which is a cornerstone of employment relations in Belarus.
Using "the profession ban" the regime punishes for unauthorized social and political activities, gets rids of ideologically disloyal citizens of areas in which we are working with education, formulation of policies and ideas, fights emergence and activities of influential public figures who manifest disloyalty.
What social networks like Belarusians? – Andrei Dubanevich based on the research of the Ignite Social Media concludes that the Belarusians, as before, are conservative in their choice of social networking and related online resources. In particular, the Belarusians love free content, including music, for example, portal Last.fm. Belarus occupies 3rd place in the list of Livejournal; Belarus takes a prize-winning 3rd place in the top of the region's most educated Web users – 36.5% of them have higher education.
Belarusian Security Brief – Belarusian Security Blog has released its monthly review of national security of Belarus. The experts note a new conflict between Belarus and the West in August increased by a new "front", this time with Sweden. Political crisis is complicated by the doubtful ability of a regime to ensure the development of the country as well as growing lack of people to work in government positions
Are “Bobruisk Anarchists” victims of “the patriot games”? Anatoliy Sanotenko writes for Mediakritika.by recalling the two-year-old case of three youngsters sentenced to 7 years in prison for an alleged attempt to set the KGB building on fire. Given the different backgrounds of the three young men, and leaked to the internet examples of KGB-assigned straw-men attempting to recruit young activists to commit unlawful actions, the author makes an assumption that the whole story might have been set up and staged by the KGB.
Draft bill on the political parties and NGOs. On July 31, 2012, the Council of Ministers introduced it in the Parliament, but the development of the bill was not discussed in public, it had been published only in the end of August on the National Legal Portal. The analysis showed that the bill provides some positive changes compared with the existing legislation, but generally not focused on the improvement of the situation with freedom of association and the introduction of regulations to promote their development.
The Coverage of the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in the Belarusian Media. The Belarusian Association of Journalists concludes that electoral campaign and its coverage demonstrate political stagnation, which the authorities try to depict as political stability. Candidates’ presentations are announced in printed TV programs as “Elections-2012” – without naming the candidates or the parties. There is a noticeable depersonalisation of the main participants of the electoral process is taking place. Communication as exchange of opinions is absent – it is rather an exchange of pre-defined messages, but not a free exchange of thoughts.
Weekly Report of Electiom Observation Results, September 3-9. Human rights defenders for free elections campaign in its weekly report notes that election campaigning takes place in the climate of pressure on democratic candidates and civic activists from the state bodies. TV-presentations of the opposition candidates and their platforms continue to undergo censorship in the state press. Observers note massive use of administrative resources in support of pro-government candidates.
Why Belarus Ignores "Eastern European Davos"? – Yuri Zisser (TUT.BY) visited XXII Economic Forum in Poland, and shares his impressions. In particular, the author wonders at the lack of Belarusian officials on such a large and prestigious event: "Our state finds millions on ice palaces and control teenagers in social networks, but did not want to find a penny to forward experts to participate in the Belarusian section on "Eastern European Davos".
Belarus Aims to Rebuild Its Ties with the West – Grigory Ioffe analyses two top personnel changes – the Belarusian foreign minister, Sergei Martynov was replaced by Vladimir Makei, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s now ex-chief of staff, whose position was assigned to Andrei Kobiakov, until recently Belarus’s ambassador to Russia. The analyst concludes that despite the years of Western sanctions leveled on Belarus following the December 2010 post-election crackdown, efforts continue by both sides to maintain and resurrect withering ties between Minsk and the West.
Political Business Cycle in Belarus, or the Political Economy of Confidence to the President – Alexander Avtushko-Sikorski (BISS) investigated why many Belarusians' support the political status quo. The expert notes that the growth rate of real wages directly affect the level of confidence in the president: an increase in the rate of growth increases the level of trust, and their reduction – to reduce the number of citizens supporting Lukashenka.
The growth rate of real wages affect the "market" orientation of the Belarusians with slowing growth increases the number of supporters of the economy with little government regulation. With the acceleration of the growth rate of real wages opposite trend: people want to see in the economy there is a "strong hand" of the state. Income growth does not affect the dynamics of the geopolitical orientations Belarusians.
Belarusian Monthly Economic Review, #9, September 2012 – IPM Research Centre has released the September review of Belarusian economy. In particular, the experts note that GDP growth on the demand side still relies on external factors – the increase in exports and a reduction in non-energy imports – but the trend of recovery in domestic demand and a proportional restore of imports is traced quite clearly. The report highlights the decreasing share of high-tech production and vulnerability of Belarusian economy caused by its dependence on Russian oil imports.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.
Why Belarusian Diplomats Leave Foreign Service
In the last month the issue of diplomacy was the focus of the Belarusian authorities several times.
On 20 August Alexander Lukashenka appointed a new foreign minister, Uladzimir Makey, and on 1 September he inaugurated the brand new building of the Faculty of International Relations of the Belarusian State University. Although the building looks glamorous, the president spoke with great concern about the human resources situation in the Belarusian diplomatic service.
What worries Lukashenka is that today, unlike in the previous decades, fewer and fewer talented young people want to pursue diplomatic careers in Belarus. Moreover, more and more qualified and experienced diplomats eagerly leave their posts in the foreign ministry for more rewarding jobs elsewhere.
This situation is a natural result of Minsk’s self-isolating foreign policy and the tiny salaries that Belarusian diplomats receive. And there is hardly anything that can be done to seriously improve the situation.
UN Founding Member without a Real MFA
The present-day Belarusian diplomatic service traces its origins back to 1945. The leadership of the Soviet Union wanted to have as many votes as possible during discussions at the United Nations. Therefore, the USSR insisted on including both the Belarusian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics as independent founding Member States of the UN.
since the very inception of the UN in 1940s, Belarus has had its own diplomatic representation there Read more
Thus, since the very inception of the UN in 1940s, Belarus has had its own diplomatic representation there. Of course, it only performed decorative functions and all the decisions were really made in Moscow. But at least the Soviet rulers had to raise the perception of independent foreign policy making in the BSSR and established a separate foreign ministry in Minsk. They appointed Kuzma Kiselev (a doctor by education) as the first Belarusian minister of foreign affairs.
As the task of the Belarusian diplomatic mission during the Soviet era was just to vote the way the Kremlin decided, the ministry in Minsk was very small. Its staff did not exceed 20 people. Nonetheless, some diplomatic traditions began to take root even under those conditions.
The Newly Sovereign State in Search for its Foreign Policy Elite
When Belarus gained independence it already had a small foreign ministry and some diplomats with experience in international affairs. But, of course, the new situation required a fully-functional ministry. And the government started to look everywhere for people who could handle the difficult task of promoting Belarusian interests in the international arena. They even placed job adverts on national radio.
The main requirement for new diplomats was a knowledge of foreign languages. Belarus did not have an undergraduate or graduate school that taught international relations. So the majority of newcomers were graduates of Minsk State Linguistic University (then known as Minsk Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages).
Diplomacy started to attract the most talented and ambitious young people who wanted to pursue beautiful lucrative careers. Like in the Soviet Union, male candidates had far greater employment opportunities than female. As a result, today there is huge gender imbalance in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Gradually the MFA became a sanctuary for the children of top officials. Walking along the corridors of the ministry, one would see innumerable door signs with easily recognisable surnames. At some point it became almost impossible for a young man without proper connections (blat) to get a job in the ministry no matter how qualified he was.
Poor Relations with Academia
Apart from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the newly sovereign Belarus needed its own diplomatic school. In 1995 the leading university – Belarusian State University – established the Faculty of International Relations. Its primary purpose was to prepare cadres for the MFA.
In the beginning almost all the graduates of the Faculty automatically got into the ministry. It is likely due to this fact that it became one of the most popular and prestigious schools in the country. Enrolment competition skyrocketed. For example, in 2004 about 400 applicants competed for twenty tuition-free places in the field of International Relations.
But as acceptance to the MFA began to depend not only on merit but on proper connections, the role of the Faculty of International Relations started to diminish. It turned into a school that prepares specialists that the Belarusian labour market has no demand for.
Moreover, the Faculty of International Relations and MFA did not manage to establish good cooperation. Scholars from the faculty are never invited to contribute to strategic thinking in the ministry. And MFA representatives rarely participate in academic discussions at the university. As a result, all sides lose. The scholarly work has become detached from the realities on the ground, and the ministerial foreign policy strategies less carefully thought through.
From Elitism to Defection
The past couple of years have seen a serious decline in the prestige of diplomatic careers in Belarus. Several devaluations of the Belarusian rouble have made the salaries in the MFA unbelievably low. For example, an attaché who is just starting his career gets roughly $300 per month. The head of a department with the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary earns around $1000. Of course, during foreign placements diplomats get considerably more. But given the huge workload that they have this is almost peanuts.
an attaché who is just starting his career gets roughly $300 per month Read more
Jobs in the private sector can offer many times over this salary. And there one does not have to feel embarrassed because of the self-isolating and freakish behaviour of the Belarusian government. Many diplomats disagree with the regime's policies but have to defend them as a part of their work. It is no wonder then why so many young professionals often prefer careers in business to the diplomatic service. Good evidence of this is the fact that fewer and fewer top officials try to ensure a place for their children in the MFA.
Thus, Lukashenka's worries are not in vain. The current state of the economy will not enable the state to raise diplomats' salaries to a competitive level. Like those working for other government institutions, the same old officials migrate from one position into another or abandon government jobs altogether. The foreign ministry is losing talent who defect from the prospects of humiliating pay for an extremely difficult job where they are representing the most repressive government in Europe.