Government wants to keep control over housing industry without stretching budget

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April 22, 2016 18:41

The state continues to search for additional resources to replenish the budget at the population’s expense. The budget deficit was partly patched up with revenues from the privatization of state-owned apartments. The deadline for state-owned apartments privatization was prolonged until 2016, so as not to aggravate citizens until after the presidential election. The government plans budgetary cuts on the state housing policy, but it is not willing to reduce its presence in this sphere.

Alexander Lukashenko endorsed a draft decree related to regulation of housing relations.

As of early 2013, 392,000 apartments (14% of the total housing stock) remain non-privatized in Belarus. The share of non-privatized housing (since Soviet era) is higher in the regions. About 182,000 people still possess ‘Housing’ cheques, which can be used to privatize the state-owned apartments they live in.

After the currency crisis in 2011, the government launched a housing policy revision slowly reducing its social orientation. The Government has gradually limited state soft loans and subsidies for housing construction. The Rental Housing Construction Programme was given priority, as well as transferring public housing stock into rental housing. The authorities plan to use proceeds from housing privatization to fill in the gap in budget revenues (circa BYR 17 trillion).

The Government initiative jeopardizes the disadvantaged – mostly retirees who predominate among state’s tenants. Many of them cannot afford to privatize (privatization costs vary between USD 4,000 and USD 35,000). Moreover, if housing and utility tariffs go up, they will be unable to pay for their premises. Most of these apartments will be transformed into social housing or rental housing without the right for privatization.

In addition, the conversion of public apartments into rental housing will increase tenants’ dependence on the state, which may bring political dividends.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

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.

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