From facts to deep analysis
Strategic thinking can be said to be a gift from God. And not only intellectual, but also moral and ethical. After all, the analyst thinks not only today, but looks far into the future. At least one, or even two or three generations ahead. Naturally, beyond such a horizon, he cannot worry about any material benefits from his "foresight talent", but only spiritual ones: the wealth and prosperity of future generations. Will they remember a good word about the current strategists? Or maybe great-grandchildren will grow up ungrateful. This also happens. But it's not about any honors in the future, this is about real, not ostentatious patriotism. That is why at a recent meeting, the President rigidly raised the issue of implementing strategic projects, without which it is possible to lose the country. However, strategic thinking is more necessary today than ever not only in production, but also in the development of fundamental and applied science (today's discoveries can have a comprehensive commercial effect in 10-20 years), in the field of demography, social life. And the basis of strategy and planning is a sound, competent and effective analysis of the current situation with the definition of trends for the possibly long future. How to achieve this? What do they already know how to do well in Belarus, and what areas still need to be developed and improved?
About uniqueness of the BISR
Analytics, strategic development, forecasting are very difficult activities.
BISR will soon be five years old. I'm not shy, we have been able to record some achievements. But I can't really say that we have reached a peak of excellence. On the other hand, is it possible in principle? Analytical services, figuratively speaking, are like a bicycle: the higher the speed, the more stable it is on the track. If it stops — it will inevitably fall. That's why the BISR has a lot of things that need to be tightened, deepened, improved First of all, in the field of strategic analysis, determining trends. We have certain developments and methodologies, but we still have to work out a lot in this direction. And there are still many peaks to conquer. But I am convinced we can do that.
There are different methods in long-term forecasting. We know them, study them, try to improve them. But let's be objective: is it possible in principle to make a more or less accurate forecast in the modern world?
It is absolutely logical that Belarusian development concepts are formed based on national goals, objectives, and needs. Based, of course, on objective data and assumptions. And then it is very important to build strategies to achieve what you want with various possible surprises that reality brings us almost every day. And this approach justifies itself. At least for today.
What else is unique about the work of analysts is the highest level of responsibility. After all, important state decisions are made on the basis of their research. And the higher the level of officials in whose interests analysts work, the higher the responsibility is. And, accordingly, the price of error. Therefore, consumer confidence in our information is very important in our profession.
On the other hand, every professional understands that anyone, even the most experienced, titled specialist, sooner or later makes a mistake. Just based on the theory of probability, it is impossible to take everything into account. The possibility of objective errors is one of the costs of the profession. It is all the more painful because the analyst's miscalculations can form the basis for serious government decisions, for which significant resources are allocated. But if the error cannot be prevented, then it can be detected in time and systematically responded. There are such mechanisms. Our analytical centers keep records of "correct forecasts", the most effective analysts, and monitor a number of other important professional parameters. It is very important to use information and opinions from different sources, compare them, and draw certain conclusions. If necessary — to make additional checks and calculations, research. In short, a real analyst should always doubt himself. And this is not always easy for professional pride: nothing human is alien to analysts. And here the moral and ethical aspect is very important: when a sense of responsibility will overcome some personal feelings.
BISR is engaged in analytics of analytics. This is one of the forms and opportunities to avoid mistakes. Our structure employs many specialists with academic degrees and titles, recognized professionals in certain fields. As a director, I respect this part of their life. And they have the opportunity to develop and realize their scientific ambitions. But if we talk about professional criteria for BISR employees, they should first of all consolidate the opinions of competent people on a particular problem, the results of research. BISR involves a wide network of experts in various fields. But our basic principle is a technocratic approach to any information. Our analysts must correctly ask questions to the right people, systematize the data obtained, be able to separate the important from the unimportant, the reliable from the unreliable. And after filtering the facts, put them into a trend. This is their main task. Not a personal opinion, but an analysis of data, research, opinions and the formation of some analytical result.
Our Institute is a unique "think tank" of its kind. At least by European standards. Most of our colleagues specialize exclusively in foreign policy analysis. But we look deeply into the internal political and social processes of the country. The Institute unites four areas: foreign policy, domestic policy, economics, social direction; technical analytics and IT; regional studies and regionalistics. This multi-vector nature creates some organizational and administrative difficulties. But the managerial nuances are successfully solved. But concentration of various directions under one analytical roof gives serious synergy. Our divisions do not exist separately, they are in constant interaction and working contacts. Therefore, BISR analysts represent the country as a whole: its position in the external world, successes and difficulties in internal development. Our employees often go on business trips, visit enterprises, state institutions. Therefore, they understand the level of development of, say, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, petrochemistry and other industries. Their disadvantages and advantages. And this is our strength. We can look at a number of problems comprehensively, taking into account the factors of the external contour, internal vectors, social aspects in general and in the regional context. This is very important both to prepare analytical documents and for the presentations of our experts at various international events. There is a concept of "expert diplomacy". And heated discussions unfold on its sidelines, which then go out into the public space. And if necessary, our specialists reliably reflect information and expert attacks on Belarus, since they fully control the situation not only on the foreign, but also on the domestic policy of the country. This is our advantage over our colleagues from many countries. And the BISR diplomats cannot be brought down by some fake information, inaccurate statistics, or some sociological research.
Thanks to the President's plan and the assistance of his Administration, the BISR is built and installed in such a way that all authorities closely interact with us. Both central and regional. We have built partnership, effective relationships with all of them. Very high-quality cooperation has developed with the Council of the Republic. This allows us to feel confident, receive all necessary information, communicate with any structures: state, public, commercial.
About analytical independence
Having own analytical services is an important factor of national sovereignty. There is always a temptation to take advantage of the research results of large international organizations, world-renowned consulting companies, and some individual specialists. And this is typical not only for Belarus. All states have a problem of "propensity to other people's opinions." Probably, they seem to be more independent from the outside.
But in this case there are a number of risks. "Foreign" analysts work for certain customers. For example, large multinational corporations. Will their conclusions be fully valid for Belarus based on its national goals and objectives? Very doubtful. In its purest form, a third-party's analytics is dangerous. Moreover, manipulation, disinformation and other destructive actions are possible given the current confrontation.
There is a huge problem of modern Western analytics. It has nothing to do with forecasting, it's only about modeling the future — the one that is profitable and that someone would like to see. Western analysts use their authority, try to program the consumer of information, manipulate them. And thus achieve a high degree of reality of their forecasts. Many analytical centers get this wrong. Sometimes, the confidence in "forecasts" of such analytical companies decreases, then they accumulate it, use PR. And then again, they start selling their authority. This process is endless.
That is why national analytical services are needed. BISR actively cooperates with "think tanks" from other countries. We exchange opinions. We study other people's experience, a wide variety of studies. But we always refract other people's opinions based on our methodologies, analyze analytics, make "wind corrections". We listen, we trust, but we check. Fortunately, we have developed such methodologies and we can separate the wheat from the chaff.
Conscientious analytics is an international profession.
About international cooperation
I am convinced that, having gone through the rounds of the upcoming confrontation, humanity will still return to cooperation. And I am sure that analytical services will be among the first at the forefront of establishing cooperation in the new format. It is them who will look for optimal ways to restore interaction. It is very important for expert diplomacy to maintain the level of trust at the international level.
BISR has developed close cooperation with colleagues within the framework of the CSTO, the EAEU. Of course, the closest cooperation is within the framework of the Union State. A number of bilateral agreements have been concluded with "think tanks" from many countries. They listen to us, hear us and trust us. Therefore, we have succeeded in a unique initiative: to hold an international conference of "think tanks" in Minsk on October 25-26. What is its purpose? First of all, to share professional achievements and innovations.
Our institute has something to tell our colleagues about. And their experience is undoubtedly important and valuable for us.
One of the important issues that we plan to raise at the conference is the moral and ethical professional code of analytical services. In particular, BISR piously adheres to the principles of honesty in the presentation of facts, excluding their deliberate manipulation and distortion. An analyst should be impartial in relation to consumers of information, not try to manipulate them and pass, using his authority, the desirable for reality. It is necessary to discuss a number of other aspects of the work of analytical services that would allow us to get closer to find mutually beneficial solutions at the national and regional levels. It should be noted that Belarus succeeded in maintain its image of a respectable, peace-loving, contractual, responsible state in the international arena. On the sidelines, this is recognized even by representatives of countries that openly allow themselves quite violent attacks. And objectively, we have every opportunity to become the center of attraction for the processes of integration and interaction of the new era.