The authorities will take the irritating measures "after the elections".
There are only several weeks remained before the "parliamentary elections" in Belarus, while less than a year remains before the "presidential" ones. The country has entered the electoral cycle, and the authorities veto any decisions that can hurt the society, naviny.by writes.
This is not the time to disturb the electorate
In recent years, the authorities have been waging an unsuccessful struggle against persons who, for some reason, are not officially employed in the economy. They tried to impose an additional tax on them, and now they want to charge them with payment for heating in full. Everything is being done to make "parasites" work.
However, during the "pre-election" period, the authorities decided to show mercy on this category of citizens.
This week, the government has announced that since May 1, 2020, all the unemployed will have to pay the full cost of heating. In fact, "parasites" are given another year, i.e. until the next heating season, to somehow legalize their income and avoid large expenditures on housing and utility services.
By the way, now the full tariff for heating is 88.99 rubles per 1 Gcal, while subsidized by the state is 18.4831 rubles; for natural gas with individual meters is 0.4319 rubles per 1 cubic meter, subsidized is 0.119 rubles. Thus, full tariffs for heating exceed the subsidized ones by 4-5 times.
It is clear that if now, during the "pre-election" period, they force "parasites" to pay for heating in full, there is a high probability of mass discontent in the society.
However, the authorities have decided to postpone other unpopular measures.
As in the case of heating, the population is far from fully compensating the full cost of public transportation. In particular, the level of reimbursement of railway passenger transportation costs by the population is around 20%.
Last year, the government raised tariffs for these services, and this year's fare did not go up by a kopeck for any kind of transportation within the country.
The government has not yet initiated other unpopular measures because of the upcoming "elections".
In particular, the issue of reforming the state-owned enterprises sector is not raised at the official level. The government is not ready to deal with this issue because of the electoral cycle, so the World Bank is not able to agree with the authorities on a roadmap for structural reforms.
Finally, against the background of the "election campaign," none of the officials publicly raises other pressing issues, namely, the need to further raise the retirement age, budget reform triggered by the negative impact of the notorious tax manoeuvre.
Instead, Belarus has a deficit budget for 2020. We can allow - "elections" are about to start!
Acute topics will be raised in a year
The experience of the last two decades shows that resonant topics, causing indignation among the electorate, come to light as soon as "presidential elections" are over.
On the eve of the "elections" of 2010, the authorities controlled the exchange rate in every possible way. The National Bank even attracted foreign currency resources of commercial banks to solve this problem. As soon as the "election campaign" was over, there were no more opportunities to control the rate. The problems accumulated in the balance of payments turned into a protracted currency crisis.
In 2015, the electorate did not know anything about the upcoming high-profile incidents on the eve of the "elections". On the other hand, the authorities promptly began making unpopular decisions when the polling stations were closed. In particular, denomination was announced and the reform of the deposit market was carried out, as a result the conditions for deposits were significantly tightened.
According to experts, the situation will repeat itself in 2020. After the "elections," the electorate will face unpopular decisions. Meanwhile, the state is ready to show mercy on "parasites" before the elections.
"Why did they postpone raising the cost of heating for "parasites"? Earlier it was stated that the number of people not officially employed in the economy equaled to hundreds of thousands in our country. If the price for heating is up, it may create social tension in the pre-election period," a researcher of the Belarusian Economic Research and Education Center (BEROC) Aleh Mazol says.
After the "elections," the economist believes, the state will turn to unpopular decisions in the form of the increase of administratively regulated prices (in particular, for travel in public transport).
The processes of preparation of state enterprises for restructuring may be activated, the expert believes.
"The economy is barely growing, unpopular solutions to improve the efficiency of state-owned enterprises will have to be considered," Aleh Mazol assumes.
Other observers also expect unpopular decisions to be made after the elections.
"After the elections, they will likely raise tariffs for those services that are not fully reimbursed by the population. In addition, there is a high probability that the cost of heating will be raised for "parasites". And in the medium term, we should expect a decision on further the retirement age increase," Vadzim Iasub, senior analyst of Alpari, says.
As for reforms in the public sector, it is very difficult to make predictions on this issue, Yasub said.
In his opinion, the completion of the electoral cycle will not be a reason for such sensitive reforms, which are fraught with the reduction of excessive employment in state-owned enterprises.
"There is no political will to deal with this issue so far. However, if Belarus fails to agree successfully with Russia on oil and gas issues, then within three years there may be very serious grounds to make unpopular decisions to reform the inefficient part of the economy," Yasub predicts.