BISS-Timeline №9 (September 2013)

Alexei Pikulik
Alena Artsiomenka
Aliaksandr Autushka-Sikorski
Andrei Yeliseyeu
Dzianis Melyantsou

The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies presents the ninth issue of monthly monitoring of social, economical, political and cultural spheres. BISS-Timeline analyzes information about main events occurred in September 2013.

The Belarusian opposition has finally formed into two major blocs: the first coalition— conventionally named “People’s Referendum” after the campaign that the bloc pursues—appeared back in May; the second one was officially established on 22 September at a national conference under the name “Civil Alliance for Free and Fair Elections for a Better Life Talaka” (short name “Talaka”). Both “People’s Referendum” and “Talaka” are ready to nominate their candidates, election commission members and observers at the upcoming local elections. Therefore, as of today, most of the opposition forces belong to either of the two coalitions, which are united based on the tactics followed in their campaign, rather than political ideology or values.

Belarus’s foreign trade situation remains unfavorable; the broadening external trade deficit forebodes another economic crisis for the national economy. The potash conflict aggravated the situation even more. The decrease in September's industrial output was caused by the drop in the production of not only potash fertilizers, but also lubricating oils and diesel fuel (down by 16.7% and 26.6%, respectively). The “potash conflict” that was aggravated by the arrest of OAO Uralkali CEO affected the volume of crude oil deliveries from Russia. In September, oil import from Russia dropped to 170,000 tons from originally expected 400,000 tons.

Prices and tariffs went up in September, following the increase in the minimum subsistence budget this August. Electricity rates for households rose by almost 12%, and automotive fuel prices were increased twice in one month.  The presidential decree No.389 of 3 September entitles only those Belarusians who have worked and paid mandatory pension insurance contributions for at least 10 years to have retirement pensions, whereas previously, five years’ worth of contributions were enough to enjoy a pension. Furthermore, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of Belarus announced that “further increases in pensions will depend on the capacity of the pension system and will remain within the amounts that do not threaten its stability.” Because the state has no plans to increase the retirement age, it is quite likely that pensions will very soon be indexed to inflation rather than be determined by the average wage in order for the state to be able to stabilize the retirement fund.

The country’s cultural life was nothing extraordinary in September: official and unofficial cultural projects were running in various tracks that hardly ever overlapped; the authorities displayed their closedness yet again, along with the inability to have dialogue with their opponents and willingness to ideologize any mass cultural events. The aesthetic level of official projects was, as a rule, shamefully bad.

Read September BISS-Timeline issue in PDF format