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.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.