Research: Belarusian officials: regulator against regulation

The success of the development and implementation of reforms depends in large part on the level of expertise, motivation, and interest of officials working for government agencies. In other words, when putting in place reforms, it is not only political will and the chosen strategy that matter, but also the basic disposition of implementing officials. A survey was conducted by BISS as part of the REFORUM project to explore the opinions of state officials[1] focusing on their attitude to the adoption of reforms in Belarus.

Key findings:

  • Most Belarusian officials support the need for reforms. The motivation and positive attitude of state officials can bring down the costs incurred by the introduction of reforms.
  • Officials feel the need for reforms in the country stronger than the population at large[2]. Furthermore, unlike the population at large, officials support the need for liberalization: most of the respondents believe that reforms should achieve a reduction in the influence of the state and degree of state control. The regulators themselves thus speak in favor of a curtailment in the areas and degree of regulation.
  • Officials believe that the chief priority for the country is the economic reform, and this is where they share the opinion of business and the population at large. The second priority is the reform of the system of state administration. However, unlike the population at large, officials do not feel a strong need for the reform of the healthcare and social security systems. The least relevant reforms, according to officials, are those of the environmental protection system, of the justice system, and the political system, whereas it is the political system that is the key priority for civil society and the political opposition. This dramatic difference in the vision of the priorities of reforms by various groups of stakeholders reflects both the difference in the values of different groups and insufficient promotion of public dialogue.
  • Asked about external entities that are capable of assisting Belarus in introducing structural reforms, officials primarily name international financial institutions. The population at large mostly relies on Russia (54% of the answers). Many state officials already have a track record of engagement with international organizations, have a favorable opinion of it and are ready to continue collaboration. On the other hand, the population at large is less aware of the use of external assistance for the adoption of reforms.
  • When developing reforms, officials believe that not only government agencies should be involved, but also independent experts and think tanks. However, when it comes to the involvement of business and civil society in the development and implementation of reforms, officials believe that the potential and willingness of these groups to be involved is lower than representatives of these groups see them. At the same time, state officials believe the effectiveness of the interaction of business and civil society with the authorities to be higher than representatives of business and civil society think it is. This asymmetry can be attributed to both the critical attitude of representatives of business and the third sector to the engagement with the state authorities and ineffective communications between various groups of Belarusian society.
 

[1] The survey was conducted by the BSU Center for Sociological and Political Studies. Fifty officials representing government agencies were polled. They were divided into groups based upon a three-tier system: the national level, the regional level, and city/district level. The size of the sample allows identifying the key tendencies and patterns in the attitude of officials at government agencies to reforms. The main objectives of the survey were to evaluate the general attitude of state officials to reforms and their relevance, to identify the priorities and essence of anticipated reforms, and evaluate the effectiveness of the engagement between stakeholders.

[2] The nationwide poll by BISS “Attitude of Society to Reforms”, 1,350 respondents, March 2014http://belinstitute.eu/ru/node/2058.

 

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