The political economy of modern Belarus in the context of post-socialist transformation discourse
The paper examines the political economy taking place in Belarus since the mid-1990s in the context of the post-socialist transformation discourse. The former has prioritised the interests of non-proprietary social groups, and hence has frequently deviated from the mainstream post-socialist political economy agenda, composed of neo-liberalism and its socially-oriented alternatives, which have focused on new proprietors as driving forces of changes in the former socialist societies. Such a deviation might have been determined by Belarus' continuous allegiance to many of the socialist principles and policy methods in both economic and social spheres, as well as in politics, while the approaches dominating the post-socialist discourse presume adoption of Western principles of capitalist economy and pluralist democracy. At the same time, the country's transformation pattern has been closer to those trends in the post-socialist discourse, defined as socio-economics, which call for gradual state-led reforms, rather than to the radical liberalisation agenda of neo-liberalism. Notably, Belarusian authorities have sought to contain the costs of the transformation by following a gradual path and avoiding radical liberalisation and privatisation, but contrary to socio-economics, they have not focused on fostering new private enterprise, keeping their commitment to non-proprietary groups and the public sector they work in. While this has been frequently labelled as populism, the analysis of economic factors associated with it has not proved such allegations. Similarly, there has not been sufficient evidence to confirm the other popular criticism, regarding an allegedly utter corruptness of Belarusian authorities. In tum, the available survey and private opinion data have been in line with the official electoral outcomes, pointing at consistent public support of the policies pursued in the country. The research should provide a dual contribution to the existing knowledge of the post-socialist transformation. Above all, it amounts to a study of socio-economic determinants of Belarus' transformation, which have been frequently ignored in the English-language academic literature. In addition, it tests the validity and universal applicability of the predominant transformation paradigms, as the case of Belarus shows that it is possible to achieve positive socio-economic results and political stability following alternative political economy routes, which give proper consideration to the costs of reforms, and are based on wide public support.