States social responsibility shrinks
On June 5th, former presidential candidate and a political emigrant Andrei Sannikov was interviewed by Deutsche Welle.
In Belarus, the state’s social responsibility is consistently shrinking, while social and economic security risks are increasing. In the meanwhile, the increasing labour migration opportunities for Belarusians compensate the rising costs of the ruling group’s social policies.
In his interview, Sannikov reiterated his opposition to concessions by the EU and the U.S. in favor of the Belarusian regime (regarding recent lift of sanctions against some Belarusian companies) and talked against maintaining political contacts with Belarusian authorities within the Eastern Partnership Programme. He also urged the West to develop a long-term, consistent and joint policy towards Belarus.
To sum up, it seems that Sannikov’s team tactics is to convince the West to block all political and economic contacts with Belarus’ officials, which should result in a social explosion in Belarus, consequently enabling the united opposition to gain the power in the country. Currently Sannikov plays a consultant and expert role vis-à-vis Western politicians and coordinates ‘European Belarus’ campaign, which mainly runs Charter97.org website.
In particular, Sannikov said, that “Lukashenko is no longer the guarantor of security for the population and professionals, with the exception of a handful elite and businessmen”, which is justified. After 2011, economic risks have been consistently increasing in Belarus (currency devaluation), as well as security (the threat of terrorist attacks) and social risks (concessional housing construction and lease rules were revised).
Until now, social tensions in the country were manageable primarily due to migration opportunities within the Common Economic Space. Official statistics confirms the growth of labor migration from Belarus: employment in the economy is shrinking, alcohol and petrol sales are dropping, indicating men’s migration. Accordingly, currency cash inflow to the country from private persons is growing (USD 913 million in 2013).
However, the ongoing shrinking of the state’s social responsibility (administrative personnel reform, cancellation of benefits, opportunities for shadow incomes) will sooner or later reach its limits, creating a critical mass in the population whose standard of living has deteriorated and who cannot compensate it through labour migration. When it happens, the risks of mass unrest will rise dramatically, and the government will have to increase wages.
If so, Sannikov’s forecast – that when it happens the opposition will be able to unite and seize power from the ruling group – is highly questionable. Following 2010 Presidential elections, centrifugal trends developed in the Belarusian opposition and existing coalitions are only nominal, since they do not imply common programmes and structures for their members.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.