Journalist Viktor Yadukha reflects on what the near future of Belarus might be if one of Lukashenko’s rivals comes to power, or if the current president manages to stay in office:
“This is regardless of the fatigue of Belarusians from Lukashenko and the exhaustion of his economic model. All that is known so far about the programs of the other candidates is turbo-capitalism. This means that deindustrialization, mass labor emigration, the sale of land to foreign agricultural holdings and, as a result, the extinction of most of the villages, which are many in Belarus.
Babariko: total privatization and free market.
Kanopatskaya: privatization of state-owned enterprises, the introduction of private ownership of land and its sale, amnesty of capital, tax cuts.
Cherechen: instead of inefficient collective farms, successful farms. Tax cuts. Let everyone who wants to go to work in the EU.
Tikhanovsky: I do not have the right to voice, first we need to remove Lukashenko. But close to the supporters of market ideology.
Tsepkalo: I have no right to voice, but I am for the best world experience in everything. You all gasp, business.
What does this promise the mathematical majority of the country's population? Extremely simplistic, sorry for primitivism.
We tear off the market - close industrial enterprises. Agricultural holdings are buying up the land of collective farms and cutting rural social programs. With their technologies and export monocultures, 80% of the people in the village are no longer needed - and the villages are empty, as in the neighboring Bryansk region, where Miratorg bought the land. Belarus is turning into a semblance of the Baltic states.
Farther. The population is 9.5 million (actually less), the birth rate is low, almost 60% are elderly. Relatively few youth emigrate. Remain old and small. There is nobody and nothing to feed them in the joint pension system. They raise the retirement age and introduce funded pensions for young people. For the old, they remain at the same level, but utility and transport tariffs are rising. Hope - for transfers of children from abroad.
You can, of course, recall Poland and the Czech Republic, where re-industrialization did not occur, but de-industrialized. But firstly, why didn’t this happen in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania? What are the prerequisites that Belarus is waiting for the Polish-Czech scenario? And secondly, where are the chances that Belarus will generally be admitted to the EU - like the same Baltic States, whose budgets are subsidized from Brussels? And without subsidies, what will it be?
All this, I repeat, does not in any way cancel the fact that the current economic model has been exhausted. The Russian Federation is ready to temporarily continue tariff subsidization of the Republic of Belarus only in exchange for a clearly defined business plan for its absorption. After which there will be no subsidies at all, because the Russian Federation and its own population do not pamper. The western option of liberalization without the prospect of joining the EU is Ukraine, where being a middle-aged commoner is even worse than in Putin's Russia. And the majority of the population of Belarus is not young.
In general, the choice for most Belarusians is to sit in a weakening besieged fortress or open the gates to a crowd of looters. Langoliers have already eaten the horizon, alarming suspense is oppressing. There are few interesting niches for young people in the Republic of Belarus; they rebel and vote with their feet. Therefore, it is quite possible that Belarusians, as a whole, will choose a quick social death.
But Lukashenko and his entourage, I think, are just delaying the moment in time to prepare for a big privatization. “If it is inevitable, then we’ll become the oligarchs. In the worst case, we’ll sell the assets later for money, than just give everything away”. The chain probably works for this scenario.
Is there a chance for Russia to get Belarus? It seems to me that here is one of the options - support from the Belarusian security forces. There are quite a few of them there, and they understand that they will be on the street under the Western scenario: they are not needed in such numbers in the EU protectorates. And in the Russian Federation there are a lot of security officers per capita, and if the Republic of Belarus becomes part of it, this guarantees them the preservation of work, social and immunity from any persecution. At first, then they can cut it.
But this is if Lukashenko has not previously agreed with security officials on their participation in large privatization. In this case, it makes no sense to play against him on the side of Moscow..."