Policy briefs

Tue, 2013-03-12 11:44
By Artyom Shreibman
On 26 February 2012, Minister of Education Syarhei Maskevich announced a substantial increase of a minimum passing grade to Belarusian universities. The government wants to decrease the number of poorly performing students and to redirect young people to technical colleges instead of universities. Belarusian officials seem not to care that much about the quality of an education. On the contrary, in every possible sphere of higher education's regulation they exercise rather utilitarian approach. Instead of making cosmetic reforms the government must have a strategic vision of educational reform.
Thu, 2013-03-07 16:03

By Ondrej Ditrych

Sanctions (or restrictive measures) seem to have become one of the EU’s weapons of choice to effect change beyond its borders. Ranging from limitations on official or diplomatic contacts and the withdrawal of benefits (either under existing agreements or through redirection of aid) to arms embargoes, travel bans, asset freezes and restrictions targeting specific sectors and commodities, EU sanctions are used in trade and security policy mainly to project the Union’s ‘normative power’ in the areas of human rights, fundamental liberties and the rule of law. Some 31 countries, in addition to a number of non-state entities associated with terrorist activities, are now subject to the sanctions specifically adopted under the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) framework. In this context, the case of Belarus testifies in particular to the Union’s ambition to conduct coercive diplomacy. Yet, despite the various steps taken by the EU (with some degree of flexibility) over the past years, little lasting success has been achieved so far in enforcing meaningful change in Europe’s ‘last dictatorship’.

Wed, 2013-03-06 11:43

BISS continues a series of research dedicated to the various aspects of the EU-Belarus visa relations. In 2012, two BISS studies related to visa policy were issued, “How isolated is Belarus? Analysis of consular statistics of the Schengen states in 2007-2011” http://www.belinstitute.eu/en/article/5 and “EU-Belarus visa regime facilitation: existing barriers and expected benefits” http://www.belinstitute.eu/en/node/450

The present  study centers on the reasons for the refusals of entry into the EU to Belarusian citizens in 2006-2011. Insignificant at first sight, the issue seems very important if one looks at the statistics. In 2011, 6,000 Belarusians were denied entry into the EU. By the total number of refusals, Belarus is very high on the list, fifth only to Albania, Ukraine, Russia and Serbia.

Fri, 2013-03-01 11:36

By Yauheni Preiherman

The Belarusian military forces rarely fall in the spotlight of public discussions. Like in other post-Soviet countries, this institution mainly lives behind closed doors. Army generals normally try to escape contacts with the media and their critics in the non-governmental sector. As a result, the lack of official information results in numerous myths and popular rumours about the state of the military. However, open data suggests that the army in Belarus is far from being a monster. Its size has gone down nearly fourfold since 1991 and military expenditures look modest by international standards. Also, crime levels in the army have been minimised. At the same time the Belarusian military forces are becoming increasingly vulnerable to demographic, technological, financial and geopolitical challenges. Even army generals start talking about the need for a reform.

Mon, 2013-02-25 10:23

BISS begins publications of a series of studies in the framework of the project “Human Capital as a Source of Competitiveness and Modernization” that we will continue to focus on in 2013. The first research paper “Return on Education and Assessment of Human Capital in Belarus” by IPM Research Center experts Gleb Shymanovich and Alexander Chubrik defines human capital as “a stock of competencies, skills and personal attributes underlying the ability of a human to produce economic value.” The paper focuses on the assessment of qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the Belarusian system of education, as well as the assessment of the influence of workers’ educational attainment on their earned incomes and labor productivity.

Wed, 2013-02-20 10:59

By Vadzim Smok

Official interpretation of history in Belarus experienced dramatic evolution since USSR collapse.  At first stage Belarusian national-oriented approach dominated in historiography. After Lukashenka came to power in 1994, a setback to the Soviet narrative took place, which, however, included a number of additional elements.
On the one hand, Lukashenka’s narrative reconciled with national version of history on pre-Soviet period. They both agree that Belarusian statehood has a long tradition of independent existence and presents a value for all Belarusians. On the other hand, many aspects of the Soviet period remain a taboo or cannot be criticised. The period of independence (since early 1990s) remains most ideologically loaded and distorted, as it involves the rule of Lukashenka himself.

Mon, 2013-02-18 14:20

By Darya Firsava

Last year net foreign direct investments into the real sector of Belarusian economy dropped by 75 per cent compared to 2011, according to recently release figures of the Belarusian Statistics Committee. The pretext for sentimental patriots to moan is another reason for state authorities to rack their brains. They have eased tax burden, extended territories with privileged regimes, and achieved impressive results in the World Bank's Doing Business ranking. But investors ignore the country with qualified, quite cheap and hard-working employees with opens access to the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union with its market of 170 mln people.  Big foreign businesses may secure unique privileges and cordial greeting, but then expose themselves to significant risks. Small enterprises risk less, but are to go through all thickets of Belarusian bureaucracy, which is often unbearable even for local dwellers. Bad image in the Western media and political unpredictability also add to investors' unwillingness to invest.

Thu, 2013-02-14 11:28

Andrei Yeliseyeu

In response to the country's unprecedented reforms, the European Commission has recently proposed to reinstate EU's preferential trade for Myanmar. When this happens, Belarus will remain the only country deprived of EU trade preferences system because of labour rights violations. With historical changes taken place in Myanmar for the last two years, Belarus occupies discreditable ratings previously held by the South-East Asian country. The EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) is a preferential trade regime that provide tariff preferences when selling on the EU market. The GSP scheme can be suspended, however, for serious violations of core human rights or labour rights conventions.

Wed, 2013-02-13 12:03

Although the effects of 1990s devaluation have been properly examined in the literature, the effect of the 2011 deserves more attention. A recent study of Kateryna Bornukova of the Belarusian Research and Outreach Cente 'The Impact of the 2011 Devaluation on Real Income of Belarusians' fills this gap.  The paper shows that a fall in income and spending of all social groups in Belarus rapidly decreased the level of well-being of the Belarusian society. The state tried to cushion the crisis effects but their policies had a very limited effect. Mechanism of index of prices appeared to protect the poorest social groups in Belarus from the currency crisis effects. However, the group of pensioners seemed to be the most harmed by the politics of the state.
Tue, 2013-02-12 13:56

It's pretty unusual for prospective prosecution witnesses at a criminal trial to go out of their way to praise the defendant.

But that's exactly what happened when the fraud trial of Belarusian fashion designer Alyaksandr Varlamau opened in Minsk last week.