Growth of trust to the head of state and state institutions happened during the year when the level of evaluations of unfavorable changes in country’s economy was three times as high as the level of positive evaluations (graph 1). In September 2008, just before the beginning of the world financial crisis, shares of favorable and unfavorable evaluations was almost equal.
Belarusians evaluated changes in economy of the country as mainly unfavorable, but at the same time there was an increase of level of optimism about possibility of fundamental changes in internal and external policies of Belarus in the next five years (graph 2). In this case we face again the two levels of reality perception: the symbolic and the real one.
Economic situation is worsening – this is reality. The increasing belief in possibility of changes is the consequence of increasing belief in power’s ability to carry out these changes (symbolical level).
Main input in the number of optimists was made by A. Lukashenko’s supporters: 42.1% of them believe in possibility of fundamental changes. Only 27.7% of his opponents share this opinion. The distribution of optimists depending on education level is something to pay attention to. It is quite even in all groups (31.4%-34.7%) except for the group with primary education – 53.7%.
This type of dependency gives grounds for supposing that it is propaganda that is responsible for the growth of social optimism, as A. Lukashenko’s supporters with primary education have a higher level of suggestibility.
In the question on fundamental changes’ possibility there is nothing on the character of such changes. They can be positive and negative. But predominance of A. Lukashenko’s supporters among those who believe in changes, suggests that most respondents consider that these changes would be positive. In this context reserved optimism of A. Lukashenko’s opponents is well understandable.
The question on desirability of such changes (fundamental, but positive or negative?) is bound to the previous question. Over the last six years majority of Belarusians demonstrate a demand for fundamental changes (graph 3). The year of the fourth presidential elections is the only exception.
But it is one thing to believe in possibility of fundamental changes and totally another – to want these changes to happen. In December 2014 73.5% of A. Lukashenko’s opponents and only 39.5% of his supporters chose the “yes”-answer (in September 2013 the ratio was 72.7% and 34.8% accordingly).
Desire for fundamental changes should be regarded as an indicator of social discomfort. Naturally, the level of discomfort is higher among A. Lukashenko’s opponents than among his supporters.
Demand for market-friendly reforms in Belarus turns out to be much higher than demand for fundamental, but abstract changes (Table 1). At first sight it may seem improbable. However, let’s try to understand what mass consciousness means by reforms. According to historian A. Akhiezer, ruling elite usually regards reforms as a necessary condition of development – of economy in the first place, while mass consciousness regards reforms as a ground for strengthening of equalization, as a source of welfare.
Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you consider it important to carry out market-friendly reforms in Belarus?”, %
Variant of answer
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Don’t trust
In April 2013 the most popular answers to the question “According to you, which reforms should A. Lukashenko carry out in the next 12 months?” were as follows: “To increase minimum wage” (61.7%) and “To increase pensions” (41.8%). In other words practice confirmed theory.
That is why there is nothing surprising about such a high demand for reforms among A. Lukashenko’s supporters (56.1%). No person of sound mind will refuse reforms when they mean an increase of wages and pensions, isn’t it?
“Neither I, nor the team of Ministry of Economy are reformists, – stated N. Snopkov, the (now former) Minister of Economy in an exclusive interview to BelaPAN. – We are pragmatists. Pragmatic approach in our work means searching and offering a middle ground between what’s right and what’s possible under the current circumstances”.
Despite this unambiguous statement of main non-reformist of the country, 19.9% of respondents believe in a successful march of market-friendly reforms in Belarus, and 2.4% of respondents are even sure that these reforms are completed successfully (graph 4). Still the predominance of critical viewpoint on market-friendly reforms in Belarus should be noted.
An attempt of economic liberalization was taken in 2007 in Belarus. It ended on the 19th of December 2010 with the violent break-up of the Square. Official results of liberalization were summed up by the head of state in April 2011: “Fed up with democracy. There’s no leg to stand on, there is also my fault, but it was your wish to democratize. You got it, you saw it, so now let’s act according to life, to people. The same for market economy – fed up”.
But if we discuss market-friendly reforms in physiological terms (“fed up”), then it should be noted that hunger usually comes back. It happened in history more than once. There is certain logic to it: when economic situation in the country becomes worse and possibilities of getting resources from outside are limited, the state gives more rights to direct manufacturers and citizens, who are obliged to gain independence in economic life. And with every single day we can see more and more problems in economy.