On June 1st, 2013 Presidential Decree No 246 came to effect, which changed the terms of government support to housing construction.
Substantial state support to housing construction industry resulted in the newly built housing used as additional income source. With the new regulation the state is trying to limit the support only to those really in need to improve their living conditions. The remaining population is offered to engage in lease housing construction instead of private housing, which is the ultimate goal of the housing industry reform.
In 2013, in accordance with the approved plans for the housing construction, Belarus plans to build 6,500 thousand square meters of housing, including 2,500 square meters to be built with state support. BYR 10 trillion was allocated in the state budget for concessional loans. Housing construction for the needy in Belarus has become a kind of business for savvy citizens.
These apartments were used in two ways: they were leased off (state loan interest rates were low while proceeds from renting covered the loan payments and provided additional incomes) or sold, thereby deliberately deteriorating the living conditions and acquiring the right for another soft loan for the housing construction. Alternatively, families could go through fictitious divorces to gain the right for soft housing construction loan for a spouse.
Recent amendments restrict these apartments’ sales: there is a five-year ban on sale of an apartment built with a soft loan from the government and residents who have already built apartments using soft loans as well as their family members lose the right for the second loan. The time will show whether the new regulations will be effective. Regarding lease rules for these apartments, the changes will not have drastic effect. Residents might chose living in the newly built, using government soft loans, apartment and lease out their old apartment to which the terms do not apply. However that might increase rental costs.
The changes envisage on the one hand reducing fraud with housing built on favorable terms and on the other hand to limit the number of potential beneficiaries in the future. In the long term, it is anticipated that the volume of housing built with state support will reduce and mass construction of rental housing will develop. With the development of rental housing the state gets fairly stable and secure proceeds from rental housing, and will achieve redistribution of valuable specialists and labor resources in various locations. Housing free of charge would only be available to large families and power structures representatives. The government will stop funding the massive concessional housing construction for a large share of the population.
Thus, the state is gradually reducing social benefits for the population. The number of potential beneficiaries from the real estate market will be reduced substantially. Simultaneously, by closing the opportunity to build own housing, the “anchor” holding the labor force in the country may be lost, forcing people to look for other opportunities in other countries.
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.