Belarusians may fail housing construction plans

January 16, 2017 12:16

The main funding source for the construction of 3.5 million square metres of housing in 2017 will be people’s savings. In previous years, thanks to soft loans, annual housing construction totalled 5.5 million square metres. Amid budgetary cuts, housing construction plans could be reduced to effective demand.

According to the Ministerial Council Decree No 1113 of December 29th, 2016, in 2017, Belarus plans to build 3.5 million square metres of housing, of which 1.25 million square metres would make private houses. In order to implement the plan the government requires BYN 3.7 billion, of which BYN 2.9 billion should be secured by the population. Partially, funds will be allocated from the consolidated budget, banks would provide loans totalling BYN 245 million, and organisations would allocate BYN 440 million. As compared with 2016, in 2017, the housing construction for the needy will be reduced to 490 000 square metres and will only make one quarter.

In the previous five years, housing construction totalled 4.5 to 5.5 million square metres per year. This was only possible due to state subsidies and soft loans. In 2014, the state allocated USD 1.4 billion for the housing construction. People funded less than a half of the construction costs. Budget deficit led to a reduction in soft loans, and reduced housing construction volumes. In 2016, 3.8 million square metres of housing was built, which was 17% less compared with 2015.

New rules of the housing construction funding will change significantly the situation on the housing market. Concessional loans will be reduced to a minimum and will be allocated only to large families and employees of power bodies. People will be required to fund a minimum 77% of the total construction costs. Belarusians who have the funds do not need such housing volumes. Given the anticipated increase in the utility tariffs in the absence of the wage growth, housing construction plans may be revised downward. If there is a significant budget surplus, the volume of soft loans may be increased in order to implement the housing construction plans. In the future, housing construction industry may be stripped of the state support entirely and become regulated by the market’s effective demand from the population.

Due to budget deficit, the state was prompted to abandon soft loans for the housing construction. Due to unlikely wage growth in 2017, Belarusians are unlikely to fund housing construction as projected and housing construction plans are likely to be failed.

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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.