Press "Enter" to skip to content

Minsk’s Hi-Tech Park: a Sign of growing inequality at Lukashenko’s Belarus

The middle of the Belarusian capital Minsk has shifted radically during the past couple of decades, with newly-opened pubs, restaurants, and cafes helping create a playful portrayal of the nation. The city center now has a contemporary vibe as a result of its young people working in the IT industry, who make a great deal more money than the typical wage and have produced a bubble of riches in Belarus.

The changes are partly driven by the nation’s Hi-Tech Park, which has been created in 2005. The park features exemption from corporate income taxation, property tax, and VAT, among other items. It is now a magnet for technology companies – like the programmers of the renowned game World of the messaging program Viber – helping it profit the moniker”Silicon Valley of Eastern Europe.”

Nonetheless, the park isn’t representative of the nation, clarifies Kamil Klysinski, a senior fellow in the Centre for Eastern Studies, a think-tank located in Poland, whose attention is Belarus. “The Hi-Tech Park is a wonderful exclusion in Belarus, however, it’s simply an exclusion,” states Klysinski. “It’s a business card that may be shown to individuals, like journalists, who will find a photo of some sort of contemporary nation with a promising potential. The simple truth is that the market is in stagnation.”

As stated by the World Bank, the Belarusian market has been slow since 2014. It comes after quick expansion since 1994, once the current president Alexander Lukashenko accountable for a flat-lining market suffering profoundly following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Hi-Tech Park has increased since its beginning to a billion-dollar business, although at the same time, figures from 2018 reveal that 40 percent of companies in Belarus is undergoing a decrease in earnings, based on Centre for Eastern Studies. Furthermore, 15 percent of organizations, that are largely provincial, are unprofitable.

The financial situation in Belarus has become one of the defining issues of this forthcoming presidential election on Sunday, where incumbent Alexander Lukashenko confronts a resistance with three girls in the forefront.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old former instructor and a stay-at-home mom, is directing the resistance with Maria Kolesnikova and Veronika Tsepkalo – they’re attempting to unseat Lukashenko, threatening his power such as nobody before. She chose to run rather than her husband Sergei Tikhanovsky, a famed YouTube blogger detained back in May that, in addition to other opposition candidates, was prevented from conducting.

“The truth is that the market is stagnating. It’s ineffective in agriculture and business, and there’s a lack of will to get structural reforms since Lukashenko is fearful of reforms,” states Shraibman, pointing out that country businesses control the majority of the market. “Lukashenko doesn’t wish to privatize the market because he fears losing electricity, although the present financial direction isn’t sustainable in the long term,” he states.

Under its contemporary veneer, not all in Belarus looks like the center of Minsk. Not far in the fancy pubs, individuals reside in ragged wooden homes in neighborhoods where people still get their water from wells. Local human rights firm Viasna advised Euronews that government workers must work two to four days per year with no wages, a type of collective labor legislation in an economic arrangement reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

At a recent tv address, Lukashenko introduced a brand new five-year strategy to kick-start the market, promising to double the average salary in Belarus in five decades. The issue, based on Klysinski, is that Lukashenko, who was formerly a leader of a Soviet collective farm, nevertheless has a mindset that harks back into the Soviet Union, one which maintains literary ideas that make him reluctant to pursue liberal reforms.

His problem is that the rising amount of unhappy men and women who’ve seen their wages have stayed the same for 20 years while food costs are now much higher,” states Klysinski.

Hi-Tech Park was an exclusion for Lukashenko, he adds, who generally isn’t so pleased to change the market since it may mean losing energy.

“The IT industry is quite famous for its growth and achievement. It’s a victory, however, driven by reduced taxes,” states Klysinski. “Intelligent advisers promised Lukashenko high-income in a new business which won’t undermine his jurisdiction, like privatization of state firms can perform.

“The Hi-Tech Park was something which Lukashenko could take, but it isn’t true for the significant sector or other industries of the market, since he sees as strategic resources “

Development of this Hi-Tech Park

The Hi-Tech Park offers exceptional opportunities for IT businesses, being exceptionally aggressive to other nations, Andrew Afanasenko, the chief operations officer in IT firm Godel Technologies, informed Euronews.

There’s a great amount of collaboration between politicians and management overseeing the Hi-Tech Park, he explains, and it is easy to work with universities and schools in Belarus to increase the quality and amount of future IT employees.

“The IT sector is the best industry in Belarus. It likely has the reputation as the ideal business to work for,” states Afanasenko. “There are greater salaries since we’re a part of this global sector. We must provide competitive salaries for folks to work here,” he adds.

“The average salary from the IT industry is most likely approximately $2,000 ($1,690), although the average in Belarus is approximately $500 ($420). Therefore, it’s about four times greater than the typical.”

In the office windows of Godel Technologies, Afanasenko can observe the building of a brand new Olympic-standard pool, and behind his construction, a new business center is underway. He’s transformed Minsk lately firsthand, but he’s reluctant to state that the shift is due to the Hi-Tech Park along with the IT sector generally.

“The town has changed a whole lot, but I can not say this is due to it. I think that the nation is growing because you see building everywhere.”

Reliance on the Russian capital

Shraibman agrees the Hi-Tech Park has done a great deal for the nation but considers it’s also been a source for its rising recession seen from the run-up into the elections. As he points out, the earnings gap between individuals in Minsk and the remainder of the nation was modest, but it’s been rising as people in the IT industry have begun to bring in more and more. It’s made it evident to individuals residing in the areas that matters might be better.

If Lukashenko would like to alter this, he’ll have to overhaul the nation and privatize a number of his state-owned businesses. However, he doesn’t wish to try it, according to specialists. It’s merely 1 way that Lukashenko can keep power. He’s unwilling to reform, Stefanovic states since reforms will mean the reduction of jobs in-country businesses.

“We’ve got 80 percent of the market under state management. Many men and women work on short contracts for a few decades, and it provides the government great ability,” he informs Euronews. “If you lose the work in the tiny cities, it’s a catastrophe since it’s difficult to acquire a new one”

“When the authorities fires you, most must depart the state to find work, only because it’s so difficult to find work in Belarus if you’re prohibited from state businesses,” he adds.

Although it’s widely considered that Belarus desires change, it’s not regarded as an easy undertaking for Lukashenko to alter the nation, make economic growth and silence some of his critics,” states Klysinski. 1 choice is to search for aid at the West, however, that might indicate reforming Belarus, that Lukashenko doesn’t wish to perform, he clarifies. The other choice is to incorporate more with Russia, which now heavily subsidizes that the Belarusian market to the tune of 10 percent of GDP. But, subsidies have been radically curtailed by Russia because 2006, as it whined about 20 percent and accounted for much of the progress found in Belarus.

The decrease in subsidies was a way of pushing Belarus into accepting economic and political union, Klysinski clarifies. While he has relied on cheap Russian electricity and subsidies to increase the Belarus market, Lukashenko is unwilling to sign the Union Treaty between the two countries, something that Russia is excited to see occur. The treaty was agreed back in 1999 and might signify that the two nations would become incorporated using a frequent constitution.

“Russia needs Belarus to execute the Union Treaty, and they’ve made that quite clear,” states Klysinski. “They need Belarus to adhere to the roadmap of profound integration both politically and economically. It’s harmful to Lukashenko – and he doesn’t wish to do this – since he understands that the absence of liberty in Belarus means he will eliminate power.”

The two Klysinski and Shraibman concur that Lukashenko could have significant difficulties delivering on his claims, procuring economic growth, and silencing his opponents, even though he could win the election Sunday. Since Shraibman points out, just because individuals have a comfy, safe income from work in the IT industry doesn’t signify they don’t want change.