Belarus president sacks prime minister

The president of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, has sacked the country’s prime minister Andrei Kobyakov, who had been in the job since 2014. He has been replaced by Sergei Rumas, the head of the country’s Development Bank. Mr Lukashenko (pictured above) also named four new deputy prime ministers, as well as new ministers of the economy, communications and industry.

The sacking of Mr Kobyakov follows a corruption scandal earlier this year involving the country’s health service. Authorities arrested dozens of top health officials, medics and drug company representatives on suspicion of siphoning off millions of dollars in state funding.

“I won’t name names, but in our government we had the following situation: one programme would be announced and then another programme would be carried out,” Mr Lukashenko said in comments released by his press office.

“I’ve never allowed this and I never will! What we have promised the people must be delivered,” he added.

Independent economist and director of the Scientific Research Mises Center, Yaroslav Romanchuk welcomed the government shake-up.

“It is good to replace these people, pillars of the old socialist economy,” he told the AFP, adding that the new team were not “bogged down in corruption.”

“Sergei Rumas knows what the economy and finance are about, he’s an intelligent economist … we can hope for the start of economic reforms, as long as Mr Lukashenko gives him a mandate to carry them out,” Mr Romanchuk added.

Belarus has of late had something of a mixed record in its approach to reform. While the economy has been boosted by legislation dedicated to the development of a number of sectors – tourism and technology especially – less than two weeks ago a number of independent journalists were arrested on spurious charges.