Belarusian Motive 11:20, 26/12/2001, “Voice of America”
3 months have passed since the re-election of Alexander Lukashenka as the president of the Republic of Belarus. “100 days in power” is considered to be a term, sufficient to evaluate the performance of the newly appointed administration. In case with Belarus most of her citizens’ lives deteriorated.
Approximately 70% of companies operate at a loss and oftentimes send their staffers on unpaid holiday leaves, the private entrepreneurship is crushed by a 40% taxation, the inflation reached the record level of 65% (as compared to an average 12% in CIS), while the promised $100 wages had been paid only to certain individuals working for certain institutions, rather than to everybody. Professionals describe the situation in even darker colors. In particular, the Minister of justice of Belarus Viktar Galavanau called the country’s economy “unhealthily unstable”, stressing that the state companies are so impoverished that they are no longer able to pay off their indebtedness.
Meantime, in light of the intensified hardships with surviving the regime is playing another game. As the president himself put it, now they are hunting down those “who interfere with him”. This time the directors of large state companies fell into disfavor.
The operation commenced with the arrest in late November of the head of the Belarusian railway Viktor Rakhmanko, enjoying, however, MPs immunity. Upon the findings of the thorough investigation the man was charged with the power abuse and large-scale embezzlement of state property. Frankly speaking, the rumors about flourishing corruption at the Belarusian railway have been spreading quite for some time now. So the very fact of Rakhmanko’s arrest proved Lukashenka in the eyes of the nation to be a relentless fighter against corruption.
The next arrest, however, was really highly questionable and provocative. They placed behind bars Leonid Kaluhin – director of the Minsk “Atlant” fridge-making company. “Atlant” is one of a few still profitable Belarusian enterprises. They indicted Kaluhin for using phony payment documents, failure to return currency means from abroad, power abuse and even illegal entrepreneurship. Remarkably, there had been organized no such inspection at “Atlant’s” premises. Today many charges, which Kaluhin previously faced, have been lifted from him but he nonetheless remains locked in custody.
The destiny of Rakhmanko and Kaluhin was later shared by the director of the Minsk stadium and flea market “Tractor” Aleinikau, apprehended for alleged bribery (in a miserable size), head of the Belarus biggest car sales market “Koltso” Vasileusky for breaking the currency transactions rules and customs legislation and dozens of other individuals. In total, the presidential cleansing resulted in more than 200 legal actions, opened against almost 1000 suspects.
As reasons for the new action of the Belarusian regime several facts are named. The first one is at the surface: Lukashenka, seeing that after elections nothing threatens him, get even with the dissenters. The above-mentioned Leanid Kaluhin, for instance, was a candidate for presidency. As a result he not only left the election race, but also lost his position of a director of a plant. The assembly of the ‘Atlant’ shareholders has already appointed a new director.
The second reason also is connected with A.Lukashenka and his authority. Newspaper “Neue Zuricher Zeitung” notes that strong and independent Belarusian enterprises could easily exist without president, while they themselves represent a menace to the shaky model of the planned economy, advocated by Lukashenka. “Even the most cautious economic measures would undermine president’s monopoly of power”, -- the newspaper establishes.
Polish “Gazeta Wyborcza” touches upon another aspect of the same theme. “Despotic power of Lukashenka is not advantageous for Russian oligarchs, that have direct interests in Belarusian industry, -- the newspaper writes. – If, for example, Minsk Automobile Plant would be sold by state to “Sibirsky Aluminij”, the money of the related private business would be lost for the state as well. Then a great mass of people could decide for themselves what authorities they need. It would mean death to the regime”.