Belarusian government will raise retirement age and will preserve monopoly in pension sphere
President Lukashenka is preparing public opinion for significant cuts in state’s pension obligations. The decision to reduce social protection with regard to pensions was likely made before the start of the presidential campaign. The authorities have planned substantial cuts in social protection for the near future due to languishing budget revenues.
Last week, the president discussed raising the retirement age with the government.
The state has long been preparing the population for the introduction of unpopular measures to increase the retirement age. For example, this issue has been voiced yet before the start of the 2015 presidential campaign, which suggests it was seriously considered. "My opinion on this matter is well known: if people do not want the retirement age to be raised, we tell them straight away - this is the retirement age, here is the pension fund, we divide it among all pensioners", the president then said. Most likely, the president was probing the approval of pension restrictions by his traditional electorate.
After all, this measure will affect primarily women, for whom the alignment of the retirement age with men’s will be a significant increase. The president proposed to make the retirement age the same for men and women: "Everything should be taken into account: the difference in life expectancy between men and women, the specifics of rural and urban areas, the working conditions and other factors”.
That said, the difference in life expectancy between men and women is still high in Belarus, albeit declining. For example, current gender-based mortality varies by 10-11 years, while before it was higher - 11-12 years.
Interestingly, Lukashenka’s campaigning team in the most recent elections consisted mainly of women. Among Lukashenka’s supporters, women prevailed in 2015 - 83/17.
Notably, the government has introduced some pension age limits in early 2016, but it was relatively unnoticed by the Belarusian society.
The president also proposed to align the retirement age for all groups of the population, including the security forces, "... representatives of the law enforcement, today, in principle, may retire at 45 years old. 90-something per cent may retire at 45. What kind of a pensioner is at 45?! I think it would be fair, if the issue of raising the retirement age affects everyone”.
However, despite the crisis of the current pension model, the government has no plans to change the system itself. It remains a common one, rather than funded, which is likely due to the government’s desire to demonstrate its care for the people and prevent people from assuming a responsibility for their retirement savings.
In addition, as requested by the president a while ago, the state will cut its social benefits for the population gradually, over a long time.
Overall, the retirement age is likely to be raised gradually over several years, in order to popularize the idea among Lukashenka’s electorate.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.