Liability for social dependency in Belarus: indicator of problems with budget proceeds

April 22, 2016 19:10

On April 2nd, the president signed decree No 3 “Preventing Social Dependency”. The decree envisages a ‘tax’ for those who do not participate in public spending. Over 1 million Belarusians are not formally engaged in the economy. The authorities are unlikely to raise additional USD 100 million to implement the decree; however, they might spend considerable amounts on identifying those liable to pay the ‘tax’. 

As of January 1st, 2015, residents of Belarus, who did not contribute to public spending, or contributed less than 183 days-worth per year would be obliged to pay a 20 basic units fee (USD 245). The fee should be paid no later than November 15th of the year following the reporting period. Penalties for non-payment include a fine from USD 25 to USD 50 or administrative arrest including community service. 

The decree is aiming to reach out to 1 million Belarusians who are neither officially employed, nor registered as unemployed. In the authorities’ viewpoint, they do not contribute to public expenditure. According to preliminary estimates, somewhat 400,000 people would be subject to this regulation, while there are not enough jobs in the economy to ensure employment for all of them. In February 2015, Labor and Social Protection bodies reported only 26,500 vacancies. 

Belarusian budget is in dire need of additional proceeds. Thanks to this decree, the state budget may raise additional USD 100 million, however that amount may be somewhat inflated. The implementation of the decree will inevitably entail additional administrative expenses, including payroll costs for employees who will be involved in collecting and processing data on social dependents. In addition, the implementation will hardly be efficient – all these employees already have heavy workload. The main success is likely to be achieved through ‘information’ from citizens. 

That said, citizens will also make efforts in order to avoid paying the fee. More people will become formally unemployed or working on ad hoc contracts, as well as register as handcrafters. 

With this decree, Belarus has de facto introduced a fee for residence in Belarus – regardless of the employment status. Additional budget revenues that the state aspires to raise are inflated as citizens will try to minimize their liabilities to the budget.

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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.