Uladzimir Matskevich: Economic reforms must start with desovietization and decommunisation

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

If we don’t start implementing the reforms in a calm and conscious way we will have to carry them out through a revolution.

Uladzimir Matskevich, philosopher and methodologist, summed up the results of the “Kastryčnicki Economic Forum”, which took place in Minsk at the beginning of November, in his talk with the EuroBelarus Information Service.

What should be done and how?

“Kastryčnicki Economic Forum” generally speaking didn’t show anything new. International partners, experts talked about the true and well-known things, not new to the Belarusan officials as well.

But it’s not enough to just know what should be done to get the result described in all the research on modern economics — we must know how to do it as well. This is a way from point A to point B where B is a modern national economy corresponding to the world economy and the division of labor in the world. And point A is the current state of economy or society which needs to be changed for the desirable one. The point A is different in every state, moreover it is different in given periods.

The reforms necessary for Belarus could be conducted at the beginning of the 1990s, then at the end of the 90s and right before the 2008’s economic crisis or now. But each time the reforms would have to be carried out in different ways as each time the starting point is different.

As for now, neither western experts nor the present state apparatus, which was established to rule the country, does not fully acknowledge the current state of affairs in Belarus.

The Kiryl Rudy’s opinion

The most interesting and relevant speech at the forum seems to be the report of Kiryl Rudy. He supported the position of Alexander Lukashenko: maybe we do need reforms but our society is not ready for them.

What does it mean?

The representatives of the Belarusan business or independent economists when trying to describe the issues most often focus on small or insignificant aspects of modern Belarusan economy: taxes, state preferences, bureaucracy. Yes, we must address all the aforementioned, which is often pointed out by western experts and consultants. But even if it is done it will be in no way beneficial to the Belarusan business and economy development as long as the so-called ‘law enforcement agencies” will arrest businessmen and economic entities to extort huge amounts of money from them on the ground of violating big and small rules of the game.

Understanding the necessity of inviolability of private property is essential for the normal business development in our country unless criminal cases or economic and financial crimes are in question. The basic component — ownership of the land — is still not implemented in our country unlike all the civilized states. This postulate stands for inviolability of private property and non-interference of tax agencies and law enforcement agencies, stopping the extortion on the ground of releasing a person from responsibility as the main tools for reforms implementation.

Soviet unconscious

In his report Kiryl Rudy further expands on the topic. According to him the overall Belarusan public conscience is infected by trying to bring everyone to the same level, accepting the possibility of expropriations of any property and extortion.

State interference in private property affairs and even private life is acceptable. All of those are remains of the Soviet mentality. That’s why Kiryl Rudy supports the idea that now everything is up to mass media and sociologists that are to influence the way of thinking, those things that come from the soviet collective communistic unconsciousness. We must start with that.

Reforms start with desovietization

For 22 years Lykashenka's regime has been maintained by repeating soviet socialistic slogans.

But the Belarusan businessmen fail to understand that they must become the main social force in the process of desovietization and decommunization. I believe that modern Belarusan economists are very much like the leaders of the labor movement. They also demanded such minor concessions as pay raise, reducing the daily number of working hours instead of calling for fundamental changes in the relations with employers and capitalists.

World economy is changing and developing so rapidly that a year or even a month-length delay will result in a most serious failure to keep up. If we don’t start the reforms in a calm and conscious way we will have to carry them out through a revolution — with huge efforts and losses — social, economic.

Caged by the weak

The Belarusan businessmen and economists have an illusion that Belarus is located between two major markets: the European Union and Russia. The illusion lies in the fact that even Russian economists and politicians understand that in today's globalized economy large clusters are viable. These clusters, which can be described in different ways, have purely demographic criteria: for a part of the global economy to be able to evolve according to its own program, it must have at least 300 million of working-age population. Today, these three clusters and the centers of the world economy may be the USA, European Union and Chinese economies. Russia has been long aware that it is falling out of the global economic processes and cannot pursue an independent economic policy.

Correspondingly Belarus, which has been orientating and adjusting itself to the rules of the Russian market for the whole period of its independent history, keeps constantly loosing alongside Russia. Therefore, the second one among the most essential tasks for Belarus is to disengage the Belarusan economy and trade from Russia and entry to the European club. Europe due to its economic power and democratic potential is a completely self-sufficient player in the global economy.

The biggest strategic error of the Belarusan regime is that it has always been trying to focus either on the laggards, like Russia, or on those just gaining momentum, like China. This geo-economic and geopolitical mistake can be very costly for Belarus when implementing the reforms and entering the developed countries club.