Cross-subsidizes in the housing and utilities: the rich pay for the poor.
Due to the economic reasons, people currently are not prepared to pay 100% of their housing and utilities bills. The new proposal envisages shuffling off the responsibility to cover the growing spending to subsidize low utility tariffs on to people with high incomes. However, the record-keeping of the rich citizens is problematic and the proposal will reaffirm people with higher incomes in the need to hide income.
On September 21st, 2012 during his visit to Mogilev, Alexander Lukashenko proposed that people with high incomes subsidized housing and utilities tariffs for the rest of the population.
After the June increase in the housing tariffs, the population started covering 23% of the utilities’ costs, provides Belarus’ report to the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund. The rest is paid by the state.
The entire housing and utilities system, instead of reducing the services’ costs, seeks ways to justify the growing costs. Either there are no attempts to contain costs using internal resources or such attempts are not successful.
In the meanwhile, the population actually pays small amounts for the utilities. One bedroom 50 sq. m. apartment utilities costs are not more than USD 25. However, even such a small cost entails regular debts from some citizens groups. A significant increase in the utilities cost could result in people’s dissatisfaction and lead to a significant housing services payment debt.
In these circumstances, the state budget needs additional financial resources to cover the housing utilities costs. The idea to differentiate housing services tariffs was rejected due to fears of social unrest. And therefore the authorities came up with an idea to focus on people with high incomes and to make them liable for covering the needed amount. De facto, the government is talking about a kind of tax on wealth.
Traditionally, Belarusians demonstrate modest incomes to receive social benefits. The authorities cannot count on the voluntary consent by SMEs and entrepreneurs to become such donors. It should be anticipated, that they would start sheltering income to avoid unnecessary attention from the fiscal authorities. If implemented, this idea could transform into a mandatory fee for businesses and individuals if their incomes exceed a certain standard.
This measure is yet another way the government is set to demonstrate its social orientation. Instead of looking for internal funds for the housing system, the government tries to find those who could pay the utility bills for the majority of the population. Businesses, burdened with such obligations will use any opportunity to shadow their real incomes in order not to get into the list of “voluntary donors”.
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.