Belarusian-Chinese ‘Geely’ Car, Spiritual Revival and Local Elections – Belarus State TV Digest
Channel 1 covered an official award giving ceremony honouring prominent Belarusians.
Alexander Lukashenka introduced his fellow citizens to the new Patriarch of Belarus Orthodox Church Pavel with warm words.
Will the Belarusian-Chinese cars 'Geely' become an international hit? The head of state discussed this project with the Prime Minister Michail Miasnikovich and the Minsk Regional Governor Siarhei Shapiro.
The elections of deputies to local councils in March will take place according to a series of new rules. They include compulsory disclosure of the information on any criminal record and any sources of income. State TV concluded that the new legislation would allow Belarusian voters to get to to know their candidates better.
State awards to the prominent Belarusians. State TV afforded a great deal of coverage to the annual state award ceremony “Spiritual Revival” for important public figures who contribute to the spiritual life of Belarusian society, the journalist explained.
This year Lukashenka entered the stage together with Pavel, the new Patriarch of the Belarus Orthodox Church. “There is a special meaning in this unity,” the state TV journalist noted. In his speech, the head of state underscored the important role of the Orthodox Church plays in society. He also focused on the fact that the church remained the only confession that the state had signed an agreement of co-operation with.
The reporter noted that the head of state spoke about the values that unite Belarusian society, such as their national ideas. Lukashenka emphasised that although throughout its existence Belarusian culture was under the influence of other cultures, including Rus, Western European and Asian, the country has still managed to protect its identity.
While Patriarch Pavel accompanied the head of state on the stage, camera also spotted in the audienceTadeusz Kandrusievich who leads Belarusian Catholic Church.
Among others, Lukashenka awarded the news agency of state TV for its production of a series of historical movies as well as Mikola Mytlicki who translated Chinese poetry into Belarusian.
Belarusians are getting ready for elections. Elections to local councils will become one of the most important events of the year, state TV reports. However, this year new legislation will regulate the electoral campaigns. According to these new amendments to the previous laws, candidates have to disclose the sources of their income and report any criminal record. According to the reporter, it will also make candidates better known to voters.
State television even took the time to present a candidate running in the local elections, Natalia Slelian. She comes from one of the most authoritative civil society organisations in the country, Belaya Rus, the reporter emphasised.
How to be elected to the local councils? During its news segment, state TV went on to explain the three ways how one can become a candidate in the upcoming elections. It can happen either through a political party or labour collectives. Alternately, one can become a candidate through the collection of signatures by a group of independent initiators, composed from 3 to 10 people.
The head of state gets a report on the work of the Belarusian police. Lukashenka met with Ihar Shunievich, the head of Ministry of Internal Affairs. State TV noted that he was happy with the report and praised a work of the Belarusian police.
The reporter mentioned the achievements of the ministry, such as a decrease in the crime rate, with nearly 1,200 fewer offences occurring in 2013 than in 2012. The militia have also registered fewer cases of speeding.
Will the Belarus-Chinese 'Geely' car become a hit? Strategic partnership between Minsk and Beijing continues according to plan, state TV reports. The head of state met with Prime Minister Michail Miasnikovich and Semen Shapiro, Governor of the Minsk Region, to discuss one of the joint Belarus-Chinese projects the 'Geely' automobile. In the opinion of the journalist, production of cars remains one of the most promising projects and should bring tangible benefits to Belarus.
The head of state wants to make the joint Belarusian-Chinese project an internationally recognised brand. Within 5 years production of the automobile should raise to around 120 thousand annually. In the words of Lukashenka, building automobiles is among the most prized dreams of many Belarusians.
Improvements in housing? Recently improvements in housing construction in Belarus has been high priority for officials. The head of the head of the state's administration, Andrej Kabjakou, went on a trip to learn precisely how housing was being built in Barisau. The state TV report showed a house which had been under construction since 2011, with no concrete date for its completion set at this time. Kabjakau was informed about sources of financing for the housing's construction and the degree to which the housing had been completed.
2013 was a critical year in the housing industry in Belarus. On another occasion, state television continued covering issues facing housing. “The head of state gave his word to ordinary Belarusians that things will all be set straight”, journalist proudly stressed in their coverage of the issue. “These are actions coupled with words”, she commented.
Thank to a series of improvements in the legislation and construction management, initiated by the head of state, the industry should now function more efficiently. Another serious achievement in regard to solving the housing problem was a decree signed by Lukashenka.
No stability in the aftermath the Arab Spring. In a less than a minute of coverage, Channel 1 reported on the unstable situation in the Arabic world. They briefly mentioned that the third anniversary of the revolution Tunisia was commemorated with a demonstration against the authorities.
“Its participants state that they do not feel any improvement since the revolution in 2011”, the journalist alarmingly noted. She explained that a wave of upheavals led to serious changes in power in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Morocco. “All of these countries have not only lost their stability, but also their brand as a place that is attractive to tourists”, she continues. These events have significantly weakened their respective economies.
Syria is also affected the ongoing internal armed conflict between the authorities and rebels. Bashar Assad, together with the international community, are trying to preserve hope that they will be able to re-establish the previous level of stability enjoyed in the country.
Vilnius has approved its transition to the Eurozone, In the spring time a bill on joining the other countries who use the euro as their currency will be headed to the Lithuanian parliament. If approved by parliament, the country could introduce a new currency as soon as January 2015. State TV noted that recently Latvia joined the eurozone. Its citizens, however, are unhappy primarily due to an increase in prices the state TV channel argued.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials available on the web site of Belarusian State Television 1 (BT1). 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.
Hugo Chavez: the Musical, Tax Hike Protest, Opposition Leader Beaten – Western Press Digest
The western press covered a number of Belarus-related issues over the past month, though the economy remained their primary focus.
The long-rumoured potential sale of state-owned assets to Russian investors appears to be moving forward. This news is closely tied to Russia providing Belarus with a new $2bn loan, a deal which was commemorated in Sochi with an All-Star Hockey game.
Motorists took to the streets of Minsk to protest a new tax to be imposed on automobile owners. Leading opposition figure Anatol Lyabedzska was reportedly beaten and abducted by unknown individuals before being delivered to the police for gathering signatures for a petition against the tax.
Reverence for Hugo Chavez in Belarus’ capital remains, despite the former Venezuelan President’s passing last year. With a park being named after him and a musical in his honour planned to take place this summer in Minsk, 2014 looks as if it will a year in which Lukashenka will be able to show gratitude to his old friend.
All this and more in this edition of the Western Press Digest.
Minsk Flooded with Motorists, Protesting New Taxes on Automobiles – In a rare mass protest, the first in over 2 years, Belarusian citizens came to the Minsk’s centre to protest a new proposed tax on automobiles. Bloomberg notes that the Belarusian government is in dire straits seeking to generate revenues in order to bolster the faltering economy. Despite having secured a new loan from Russia, the IMF has officially stated that no discussions are planned with Belarus.
With Lukashenka’s attempts to raise foreign direct investment and attract more loans from sources other than Russia yielding few results, the government is becoming increasingly desperate and citizens are beginning to feel the results. The tax itself, according to official estimates, is expected to generate only $168.5m.
In response to the proposed tax, Belarusians organised a protest to jam up traffic on Nezavisimosti Avenue, one of the city’s main roads which goes by Lukashenka’s official residence. Protestors outside of the Belarusian ruler’s residence, who cheered on the motorists, were eventually dispersed.
Opposition Leader Intimidated and Beaten, Headed to Trial – Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe reports that the Chairman of the United Civic Party, Anatol Lyabedzka, was beaten and then taken to the police by 7 unknown men. Before arriving at the police station his assailants drove him by the Kurpaty Stalin-era mass grave and the city crematorium.
Lyabedzska states that he faces a trial on January 14, after being charged by police for gathering signatures against new taxes on automobiles. According to the opposition leader he was formally charged with breaking a law on sanctioned public gatherings. If convicted, Lyabedszka’s punishment will be minimal and include a fine and/or a few days in jail.
New Stetl Tourist Route to Open in Belarus, Poland, Ukraine – The Associated Press covered a new, the primarily EU-funded project that would create a real-life tour of towns that were formerly bastions of Eastern European Jewish culture and life. The tour will include 20 towns that straddle the border with the EU, including sights in Belarus, Ukraine and Poland.
Since many of the largely Jewish towns were destroyed in the late 1930s and 1940s, 3D models will be assembled to help visitors visualise Jewish life. According to the coverage, these models will re-create the “gems of architecture” that were once found in the regions wooden synagogues. Other items, including multilingual guidebooks and guides will already be available in 2015.
Hugo Chavez Musical Planned by Belarusian Musical Theatre – RFERL reports that while Hugo Chavez, who passed away in 2013, may no longer be around, his spirit will endure in Belarus. The Belarusian Musical Theatre, in collaboration with Venezuelan composer Gerardo Estrada Martinez and other Venezuelan artists, will create a musical in Spanish entitled, “In Memory of Hugo Chavez.”
According to RFERL despite Chavez’ passing, the two countries have continued to work closely together, with Belarus helping Venezuela to develop its oil and gas fields. After a resolution by the Minsk City Council in early January, a park in Minsk has been re-named after the former Venezuelan president.
Friendly All-Star Ice Hockey Game and a New $2bn from Russia – Russia has decided to provide Belarus with an additional $2bn loan, due to the current global economic situation. Lukashenka and Putin signed the agreement in late December, with Belarus already having received $440m in early January. They celebrated the new agreement with a All-Star friendly hockey match in Sochi, site of the future winter Olympics.
The Financial Times mentions that the terms for the loans are perhaps not as friendly as they might seem. It is likely that Russia expects Belarus to sell off some of its state-owned companies. Lukashenka has maintained that the situation with the troubled Belarusian economy is in large part due to the potash scandal which erupted in 2013 with Uralkali. Russia’s top diplomat in Belarus, Ambassador Alexander Surikov, stated that the loan is part of helping Belarus to better prepare for integration into the Eurasian Economic Union.
Belarus Preparing to Sell State-owned Assets to Russia – In October 2013, the Belarusian State Property Committee a list of state-owned assets that the government would allow foreign investors to buy shares in. Russia has long demanded the sale of certain state-assets, or at least controlling shares in lucrative state-owned companies, as conditions for any further loans. While this tactic failed in the past, it appears that Belarus can no longer withstand Russia’s demands.
The Financial Times reports that up for grabs are the Mozyr oil refinery and a military-grade vehicle manufacturer, MZKT, among other assets. While Rosneft and Gazpromneft already control a 42.58 stake in Mozyr, the remaining 42.76 stake up for sale would give the Russian state corporations complete control over the lucrative Belarusian refinery. Belarus has also be looking to offload its 51 per cent stake in Belarusian mobile phone network MTS, but their asking price ($863m) has not attracted any buyers yet.