Situated in lowlands speckled with forests, rivers and lakes, Belarus is landlocked Eastern European country bordered by both Russia and Ukraine. Formerly known as “White Russia,” Belarus has suffered and continues to suffer from economic hardships.
Lonely Planet refers to Belarus as the “outcast” of Eastern Europe because rather than integrating with the rest of the continent, the nation is staunch in its effort to remain physically and politically isolated. For instance, rather than converting to a capitalist system, the tiny nation remains entrenched in a historical dictatorship, earning Belarus the title “the last dictatorship in Europe.”
However, Belarus’ economic model has fallen short of meeting the needs of its people. Although the rate of poverty in Belarus in one of the lowest in Europe, residents still grapple with squalor. For example, approximately 27.1% of Belarus residents have a per capita gross domestic product that falls below the poverty threshold. Additionally, 17.8% of these individuals also live below the minimum level required to sustain themselves.
Though poverty in Belarus has declined over time, the reduction in poverty is superficial – destitution still permeates throughout the nation. A significant contributor to this unyielding poverty is government-mandated wages that have outpaced productivity, a policy under which economic stability is nearly impossible.
In order to reduce income inequality within the population, Belarus has embarked on a set of reformative initiatives. For example, reforms in education, health and social benefits have taken place. However, these initiatives must be strengthened in order to truly sustain the needs of the nation.
Furthermore, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has undertaken a poverty reduction agenda in Belarus that consists of initiatives to bolster small businesses, thereby stimulating economic growth and expansion. Specifically, the UNDP endeavors to strengthen agricultural businesses in order to revitalize rural Belarus, an area of the nation that has been hit particularly hard by poverty.
These business initiatives are critical in not just Belarus, but in also other former Soviet territories that have not adapted well to the transition from collective farming to privatized farming. For instance, as part of its agenda, the UNDP has established the Rural Business Development Center outside the Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The Development Center is the official location for the redevelopment of collective farms into competitive enterprises.
With the aid of the UNDP and the deepening of Belarus’ already-present reformative initiatives, the “outcast of Eastern Europe” holds the potential to reform itself into a more vibrant and economically-prosperous nation.
– Phoebe Pradhan