Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Belarus
Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe bordering Russia and Ukraine. Instead of integrating with the rest of the region, the country, known popularly as “White Russia”, is the last dictatorship in Europe. In the text below, top 10 facts about poverty in Belarus are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Belarus

  1. In the 1990s, Belarus was one of the poorest countries in Europe due to the collapse of the USSR socialist system. Around 50 percent of the population lived below the poverty line at the time. It concerned the population so much that the campaign slogan of Belarus politician Aliaksandr Lukashenka in 1994 was to “take people away from the abyss”. He was a presidential candidate and he won the election that year.
  2. The proportion of people living in poverty fell from 60 percent in 2000 to less than 1 percent in 2013. This decrease in poverty headcount outpaced the general rate in Europe and Central Asia that started with 47 percent of people living in poverty in 2000 and decreased to 14 percent in 2013.
  3. The highest rate of economic growth that Belarus underwent was during the 2006-2011 period when many countries in Europe experienced the effects of the financial crisis. The bottom 40 percent of the people in most of the European countries saw their incomes fall massively, but in Belarus, the expenditures amongst the bottom 40 percent actually increased.
  4. The main causes of economic growth have been Russia’s favorable pricing of energy as well as economic growth that country’s nearby trading partners achieved. This fact heavily stimulated the agricultural and mining industries.
  5. Not everyone has reaped the benefits of this so-called “inclusive” growth. Recently, the distribution of wealth has begun to favor the already rich people with the poorest people still remaining economically immobile. In 2010, 20 percent of the richest Belarusians owned 36.7 percent of the total wealth. In 2016, this figure has jumped to 38.8 percent.
  6. Unemployment is a major problem in Belarus especially considering that less than 10 percent of unemployed people are not receiving welfare benefits. The benefits themselves are meager in real terms, ranging between $12 to $24, according to economist Aliksandr Chubrik.
  7. There is also a widening gap in the incomes between those who live in Minsk, the capital city of the country, and the outlying regions. According to the data released by the government, the poor constitute only 1.4 percent of the population in Minsk whereas they constitute 5.9 percent of those in the Homiel Region.
  8. In 2017, plans were announced to introduce a “social parasite tax” for the unemployed to discourage them from being work-shy and to instill discipline in those without jobs. It was first signed into law in 2015, then known as “freeloaders tax” that proposed a fine for people who went 6 months without a job. If one failed to pay the levy or find a job within 6 months, that person would be jailed.
  9. Belarus also faces challenges in containing tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS crises. Fortunately, the UNDP is providing health care assistance to those affected in the country. The government has recently received grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS and the Ministry of Health in Belarus.
  10. Human trafficking in Belarus has been in the constant decrease. This has been achieved by collaboration between the World Bank and the Government of Belarus and by creating the Country Partnership Strategy. This strategy was designed to increase employment in the energy, transport, forestry and public finance management sectors to attract more people into those that risk their lives in trafficking.

Despite the reforms and efforts that have been achieved, Belarus is in desperate need of internal and external reform. It needs to create a stable social security system that will allow social mobility rather than punishing people for being poor and reaching a more equitable society for all.

– Maneesha Khalae

Photo: Flickr