Conceptual foundations for improving the public administration of the regions in the Republic of Belarus

Despite the absence in the Republic of Belarus of pronounced negative processes in the field of interregional relations, which to one degree or another is inherent in both countries with economies in transition to the market and the states of the world economic elite (see lecture No. 2), many Belarusian regional scientists are inclined to believe that it is necessary to further improve (adjust) the state regional policy in our country. At the same time, as the most general trend, in their opinion, it is advisable to ensure the reduction of direct state intervention in the development of regional and local communities and create prerequisites for the delegation of authority in solving local issues from the center to the local. The meaning of these changes is due to the fact that the practice of a number of countries demonstrating a high level of socio-economic development convincingly proves their expediency, since the quality of management decisions of local authorities, which are most aware of the specifics of specific regional problems, is usually much higher than that taken at the center.

At the same time, this decentralization in the sphere of regional administration must necessarily be accompanied by a significant increase in the effectiveness of the state regional policy, since in modern conditions its implementation is dispersed among numerous ministries and departments and therefore it is often indirect, passive. Measures aimed at the development of the regions of the republic and implemented today by almost all republican bodies of state administration are still poorly coordinated and synchronized with each other, which significantly reduces the effectiveness of the state regional policy as a whole. And although the indicated trends (decentralization and strengthening of state regional policy), at first glance, seem to contradict each other, they are both, in fact, interdependent aspects of the same process aimed at improving the quality of state regional administration and stimulating the development of regions.

As part of the trend of reducing direct state intervention in the socio-economic practice of the regions and their development, it is advisable to consider the following areas for improving the state regional policy:

shifting priorities from the practice of centralized redistribution of state resources between administrative-territorial units to stimulating structural transformations in the regions themselves, ensuring the most effective use of internal material, financial and labor resources of regions, cities, etc., the growth of economic activity of the population of problem regions. In addition, it is important to ensure the relative financial independence of the regions by strengthening the system of regional finances, local budgets and improving inter-budgetary relations; continuation of the reform in the field of local governance and self-government aimed at enhancing the role of local government and self-government in solving regional problems. The need for this reform is due to the fact that the population of specific regions, districts, cities and local bodies representing their interests cannot be passive observers of the processes taking place in the country and regions. They should have ample opportunity to choose the path of their own development, to participate in decision-making on all social, economic, political and cultural issues of local importance. In this regard, the improvement of the system of local governance and self-government is at the same time one of the new directions of the state regional policy, and a necessary condition for improving the efficiency of the entire public administration in the future; increasing the role of the regional level of management both in the development and implementation of the foreign economic policy of the state as a whole, and in the implementation of relatively independent access of the regions to international markets (subject to the fundamental principle of the unconditional priority of the center in the regulation of international economic relations). Taking into account the last remark, the problem of the regions’ access to international markets is reduced to the search for the optimal division of powers in the field of foreign economic regulation between the national and regional levels of government; stimulating the creation in the regions and improving the conditions for the functioning of free economic zones (FEZs) as special territories, where, thanks to the availability of preferential, more liberal economic conditions, the principle of decentralization of management of specific business entities – residents of the FEZ is practically implemented.

All of the above measures to decentralize regional management can undoubtedly be attributed to the complex of the most important areas for improving the effectiveness of the state regional policy. At the same time, an increase in the quality of state management of regional development can be ensured through the implementation of a number of other special measures, including:

reduction of expenditures of the republican budget on the implementation of regionally oriented, often duplicative, and sometimes even contradictory measures implemented within the framework of sectoral and intersectoral programs by almost all republican bodies. It is advisable to allocate appropriate funds for the development and implementation of a small number, but sufficiently funded, of regional programs of national importance. In other words, it is necessary to make an examination of indirect, passive, dispersed among ministries and departments of the state regional policy, and then supplement and coordinate it with an active policy with clearly expressed goals and objectives, objects and subjects, a flexible implementation mechanism; empowering one of the ministries as the head republican body of state administration in the field of state regional policy, which will allow moving from a disparate, fragmented, uncoordinated regional policy to an active, coordinated state administration of the regions by ministries and departments. To the same end, it is advisable to assign to one of the Deputy Prime Ministers of the Government of the Republic of Belarus the function of coordinator of direct regional policy and regionally oriented measures implemented by all republican bodies of state administration; study of positive foreign experience of regional management and its adaptation to solve the problems of regional development in the Republic of Belarus. Particular attention should be paid to the system of principles on which the regional policy of the European Union is based (the principles of concentration, partnership, planning, complementarity and subsidiarity). These principles can be successfully used at the national level: in countries with market economies – almost in full, and in transition economies – in a modified form.

Thus, it is obvious that improving the efficiency of public administration in the regions is possible both through a combination of measures related to the deepening of centralization in the development of regional policy principles by any one government body, and through the reverse process, due to the increase in the powers of the regions in making management decisions. The second direction may be related to the reform of local government and self-government, the organization and stimulation of free economic zones, the participation of regions in international economic relations, etc.