13 April 2021, Tuesday, 7:30
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

"Marshall Plan" for Belarus

"Marshall Plan" for Belarus
Photo: AFP

Experts shared their opinion on what will happen after Lukashenka.

Ukrainians lament that Belarus will not be able to quickly turn to the West because of Russia's influence, "even if another leader replaces Lukashenka." Russian economist Mikhail Delyagin predicts that after Lukashenka, a "liberal scumbag" will come to power in Belarus, and within five years, the country will be plundered, and half of the population will remain in Belarus — the rest will run away or become alcoholics, navychas.by reports.

At the same time, there are somehow few forecasts of Belarusians themselves: how do they see the future of the country without Lukashenka?

Now it's Christmas time, divination time, and why not turn on the fantasy? Let's say the improbable happens (and recently we have seen a lot of improbable things), and, at the All-Belarusian Meeting, the delegates say to Lukashenka: "Go away!" And he will suddenly leave. What's next?

The winding road to democracy

Political analyst Aliaksandr Klaskouski believes that we will not have such an easy way to overthrow Lukashenka. And he warns us against overly optimistic thoughts, such as: "one more blow - and the regime will collapse." "He has a reserve of strength: Lukashenka has shown that, in the XXI century, such a primitive reason as fear works. On the one hand, he intimidated the vertical and the security forces that "you will be hanged on trees when the government changes," on the other hand, he intimidates people. There has not been such a scale of repression since the Nazi occupation," Klaskouski said.

But change will still come. "Perhaps there will be no victory of democracy, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will not enter Belarus, the Palace of the Republic, on a white horse, but there will be some hybrid version of the transit of power. But if you imagine that even a person from the current nomenclature comes to power, he still has to have a dialogue with society and reforms. There will not be such a tough dictatorship as under Lukashenka," Klaskouski says.

At the same time, in his opinion, the Belarusian society is unlikely to vote for any new populist: "It seems to me, like other analysts, that the people have received a very strong vaccination against authoritarianism and are determined to elect a democratic government, to create a transparent election mechanism... in the future, there are good chances to build a modern state with European standards and of material and democratic political shape. Another thing is that this is not close, and the way to it lies through a dramatic struggle."

"There will be no Lukashenka-2 precisely because the Belarusian society has outgrown its power," Klaskouski says. He notes that the protest-2020 has a special feature: people came out now "not for sausage, but freedom." "They not only want better well-being, but they want to simply elect the authorities," the political scientist notes.

"Society does not accept this power, does not accept dictatorship, does not accept rigid authoritarianism, and therefore, no matter what schemes the same Kremlin or Lukashenka's entourage tries here, which, I think, also has some plans for the post-Lukashenka perspective, these players should still take into account the mood of society and make some changes. Once again, it is unlikely that there will be a seven-league step from dictatorship to the realm of complete freedom, to a democratic paradise, but it is obvious to me that the democratic process will be launched and that there will be progressive changes in economic and political life."

In his opinion, there is another problem for the Belarusian democracy - the factor of Russia. At the same time, the political scientist notes, Moscow remains an empire. For it, it is important that Belarus does not burn a revolutionary fire and that it remains under the control of the Kremlin, a zone of its strategic interests. If the Belarusian crisis suddenly takes on the scale of a civil war, anything can be expected from the Kremlin, including some form of military expansion. Therefore, those fighting for change should consider two dangers, the Lukashenka regime and Russian imperialism, the expert believes.

"I don't see any realistically bad scenarios for Belarus»

The publicist and founder of Strong News Piotr Kuzniatsou is more optimistic. In his opinion, the scenarios of Belarus' development depend on how Lukashenka leaves. Either he will leave under the pressure of the people, or under the pressure of external factors, or there will be a nomenclature revolution. Whoever eventually comes to power will determine the agenda for change and reform. However, in any case, changes will happen, and these changes will be for the better.

"In any case, it will be better. There will be more legality, more real order. There will be some kind of transition period, during which authorities and administrations will be formed, and they will clearly include more representatives of different groups who will begin to take into account the interests of different groups. In the conditions when there will be more respect for the law and better law enforcement practice, Belarus has every chance to simply rush forward, taking into account the deferred, creative energy that has accumulated in society. There is a lot of it, and now it is simply not implemented since the current state of things does not help its implementation, but even hinders it," Kuzniatsou believes.

As for Russia's foreign policy and influence, Kuzniatsou believes that this issue is a matter of medium-term perspective. "I have almost no doubt that today there is no political force in Belarus that, firstly, will want and will have enough political will, and secondly, will be able to convince Belarusians that we need to turn sharply somewhere," the expert says.

Kuzniatsou expects that, without Lukashenka, Belarus will begin to pursue a neutral and fairly balanced foreign policy like Finland. This will be "a balanced policy that will be based on the consensus that the new Belarus should in no way pose a danger or threat to the interests of the Russian Federation, and will a priori be more open to relations with the West. Such a neutral centrist policy," Kuzniatsou says.

"We will live badly, but not for long»

As for the economy, the economist Professor Barys Zhaliba calls to remove rose-colored glasses and prepare for difficulties. "The economy of Belarus is neglected, it is sick with the command and administrative system, all important decisions were made by only one person, and often they were not very correct," he explains.

According to Zhaliba, the economy has been demanding reforms for a long time, but Lukashenka has a well-known attitude to reforms: "We don't need to reform anything, we need to improve what we have." "So we have concluded that the standard of living of the population has fallen to a critical level," the expert states.

Moreover, economic reforms will have to be carried out regardless of who comes to power - a "pro-Russian force," a" successor to Lukashenka," or a democratically-minded government. And depending on the forces that will replace the current government, it will depend on how fast and how painful the reforms will be.

According to the economist, the new government will have to maintain a very delicate balance of interests and conduct a very flexible international policy. "If a democratic government comes, our support vector will change from eastern to western: As I understand it, this is what the "Marshall Plan for Belarus," developed by some Western countries, provides for. We must hope that Western countries will support the new Belarusian authorities with loans, grants, and gratuitous assistance. But how will Russia look at it? You can't turn away from it. Half of the economy, foreign trade is tied to the Russian market — and there is no escape from this. We need to live in a neighborly way with Russia, with the West, with the South, and with the North," says Zhaliba.

Therefore, morally and psychologically, you need to prepare for difficulties. But they will be temporary. "The Poles in the 1990s experienced a shock but came out on the right market and democratic road," the expert notes. Belarus should go about the same way.

"We will feel the effect of the reforms in one and a half to two years»

Economist Leu Marholin believes that the idea of "shock reforms" is significantly exaggerated. But it starts with politics. "After Lukashenka's departure, fair and free elections will be held. And whoever comes to power, he will not be able to pursue a policy similar to the policy of Lukashenka - he will have to take into account the opinion of the people. And our people are already market-oriented," he says.

According to him, the economic expert community has developed a "stable consensus" on what changes should be carried out. First of all, there will be no "landslide privatization" — it will, of course, take place, but only in relation to unprofitable enterprises. "It has already been calculated that it is better to pay a normal unemployment benefit than to keep these enterprises on subsidies, buy raw materials, materials, energy, and then their products gather dust in warehouses," the economist says.

Even if unemployment reaches an incredible figure of one million Belarusians, says Marholin, and everyone will be paid $ 200 in benefits per month, it will be $ 2.5 billion per year — this is the amount that we annually receive as support from Russia, but we waste it. But it is unlikely that there will be a million unemployed people in Belarus.

Artificial obstacles for small and medium-sized businesses, such as restrictions on hiring workers, will be removed. The regulation of prices for "socially important goods" will be abolished, and there is every chance that prices will not rise but fall. We sell the same sugar to Russia for 55 kopecks per kilogram, and in our stores, due to regulation, it costs more than one and a half rubles... Of course, according to Marholin, the reforms in the current state of the economy will be quite long. "However, Belarusians will feel their first positive results in one and a half to two years," Marholin says optimistically.

So many men, so many opinions. Some people talk about a long path to democracy and a market economy, while others are more optimistic. However, everyone agrees on one thing: changes after Lukashenka are simply inevitable. And they will be only for the better.