Public sector lags behind in employees’ social protection
On September 1st, the first discharge tariff rate increased by 4%.
The announced wage increase in public sector cannot reduce the traditional gap with the average salary in the economy and is offset by growing prices on goods and services. The government lacks resources to continue the old social policy, and will seek to curb real incomes growth.
Conventionally, public sector salaries are among the lowest in the economy. According to the National Statistics Committee, in July 2013 the average monthly wage in education was USD 384, in health care – USD 450, in social services – USD 343, with the average wage in the economy USD 614. The government’s forecast for 2014 suggest that wages in the public sector will be circa 70 % of the average wage in the industry. Consequently, there is an outflow of human resources from the public sector, which will continue into next year.
Even a nominal increase in wages (due to increased first discharge tariff rate by 4%) will not improve the financial situation of public sector employees. As of August 29th, the prices of bread and bakery products will increase by 10%. On September 1st, the electricity tariff for the population increased by 12%. Excise tax on gasoline increased by 45 % and on diesel by 70%, which will result in increased costs for individuals and increase the production costs for industrial enterprises. As a result, in the near future prices will rise, including on the consumer goods. In addition, housing and utility tariffs may increase (an increase of 65% is planned for 2014).
The government wants to curb real wages growth. The economy is experiencing considerable difficulties, which results in decreased budget revenues and consequently, in cuts in various state programmes, including social benefits for the population. The state reduces eligibility criteria for receiving social assistance and readjusts its size. In 2014, the Social Security Fund may face a deficit of funds due to continuously deteriorating demographic situation. The government has no extra cash and therefore the level of social protection will be lower.
Public sector workers should realistically assess the feasibility for keeping their workplaces in terms of financial well-being, while the state should be prepared for staff shortages and unfulfilled vacancies in the public sector and should seek additional funds to improve social security protection in the public sector so as not to lose quality of staff.
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.