The economist Barys Zhaliba and lawyer Aleh Volchak talk about the new practice of returning ex-officials convicted of corruption back from prison to new responsible positions.
Lukashenka has invented a new Belarusan bicycle, says Barys Zhaliba, Professor of Economics, about the situation with pardoning, release, and appointment to senior positions former public officials convicted of corruption. The professor believes that the personnel reserve of the acting authorities has become so exhausted that we have to get new leaders straight out of prison.
Barys Zhaliba told the EuroBelarus Information Service about the reasons and the economic feasibility "of a new personnel policy".
- Belarusan authorities have acquired a new fashion: the former high-ranking officials convicted of corruption, are pardoned, get early release, and get appointed to leadership positions once again. What, in your opinion, has caused a new personnel policy?
- The situation can be described as a new Belarusan bicycle. The first infamous case was the release of the former Chief of "Belneftekhim" Concern Aliaksandr Barouski and appointment him as a new manager of MAZ. People were mocking at him in the Internet, and rightly so.
Now this practice has been continued. The Deputy Prosecutor General Aliaksandr Arkhipau got released and was appointed to be the Chair of the collective farm in Minsk region. Such policy undermines the credibility of prisons and makes them seem meaningless in the people’s eyes. The President releases high officials from the prison, demonstrating super-rational approach: during the economic recession these people can put their brains into practice and improve the well-being of collective farms, for example.
- What Chair of the collective farm the former Deputy Attorney General Arkhipau will make?
- One cannot become Deputy Attorney General without any experience; Aliaksandr Arkhipau has abundant legal practice, he can sort things out, find his bearings in the rural economy, and even improve things in one specific farm. But this is a bad practice; the personnel reserve of the Chairs and managers of collective farms has become so exhausted that we have to get the personnel directly from prisons.
If the person is smart by nature, erudite, and educated (not necessarily in this area), such people can find their bearings. Such pragmatism is present in Belarus.
- If the convicted are hired for leading positions, does it mean that we don’t have highly qualified staff at large?
- Quite rightly so. Lukashenka is switching places of the personnel; we see one and the same faces everywhere; whereas he fears to introduce new progressive people, who do not fully share his guidelines, to the government. If an expert is highly qualified, let them work! Even Putin appointed new people, who didn’t fully agree with him, to the government. Russia has principled independent ministers! But we don’t: we see gray mass of officials lacking individuality, who take notes after Lukashenka’s words on TV. I think that we don’t see any disputes neither in the government, nor in the parliament, even though the truth is born in dispute. Hence, we see the results of such situation in the current Belarus’ "achievements".
Aleh Volchak, the head of the center Legal Aid to the Population (Kyiv, Ukraine) talks about the causes and consequences "of the new personnel policy".
- People who get out of prison with the help of the authorities and are put back to new responsible positions have been tested by our system. Now all the flaws, mistakes can be put on their account when the economy completely collapses. Officials are not experts in the sphere they get to work in; therefore, they wouldn’t be able to create competitive enterprises out of loss-making ones. The authorities simply lack personnel to appoint new managers to manage the economy.
All businesses are already at the bottom and went bankrupt, and now the former corrupt officials have reappeared, and they won’t ask for a big salary: for the pardon they were given they are ready to manage these enterprises basically for nothing. The authorities understand that hardly anything can be improved at such enterprises, so let the workers prey on the new chairs for unpaid wages.
How can we appoint former officials implicated in corruption crimes to the leading positions? After all, the verdict on corruption cases contains a direct reference: "... with the deprivation of the right to hold positions related to the implementation of organizational-administrative and administrative duties for 5 years?" Under the law, it is strictly prohibited for them to take up leading positions. Especially because they all were prosecuted for bribery, for spending budget funds for personal purposes, for distortions, for forgery... Are they going to become the law-abiding leaders? Of course, not.
Such tossing around demonstrates that the government just doesn’t know what to do during a severe economic crisis, and to prevent the complete stoppage of enterprises it appoints corrupters as the heads of these enterprises.
- What effect will such “personnel policy” have?
- The IMF will definitely "appreciate" the appointment of the former corrupt officials and won’t give the loan Belarus asks for, as it won’t be sure that the authorities will use the funds as intended.
I call such a policy the "carousel of corrupters". The corruptor will never become a freeloader, because the system will always need people who are ready to go to jail again if something goes wrong. Corruption in the field will become even more widespread, because a corrupter, just as a leopard, cannot change its spots.
New schemes with old friends of how to use budget funds for personal gain will resume. Our system of governance is completely discredited by such decisions not only in the eyes of the voters, but also in the eyes of the investigators, who have put a lot of effort in order to prove the criminals guilty; but now they are released, and put in leadership positions again. The investigation knows that it does paper work rather than stops organized crime.
These appointments are not the last. The return of the former corrupt officials to power will continue.