Anti-crisis measures take social protection into consideration

Government outlines plan of action to ensure balanced economic development

By Vyacheslav Liberov

The Council of Ministers’ official site (www.government.by) has published a decree outlining a plan of action to ensure the balanced development of the economy, under the changed conditions of the Belarusian Rouble’s official rate. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Rumas, some actions — such as raising pensions from June 1st — are already being realised. A further recalculation is to follow on August 1st and November 1st.

Non-cash housing subsidies are envisaged for families with low incomes, whose expenses for housing and community utilities exceed 15-20 percent of their income. The Government proposes to increase local budgets for state targeted assistance, with unemployed persons’ training allowances rising and employers being subsidised for their professional training of workers who are under threat of dismissal or who are in their first job. Other measures of social protection include subsidising state organisation canteens and the purchase of medicines, as well as compensation for the additional expenses of recuperating children at camps.

The financial part of the plan envisages the updating of budget figures for 2011, to ensure deficiency of no more than 1.5 percent of GDP. Emissive crediting for state programmes is to be cut by no more than 4 percent of GDP. Moreover, the Government plans to review construction and financing of housing accommodation in 2011, taking into account the number of developers already observed in each region and Minsk. Financing of the State Investment Programme is to fall by 30 percent.

The Government plans serious measures to protect the domestic consumer market, ensuring that consumer goods’ prices are comparable with those in neighbouring states, promising social protection of the population. Duties on alcohol and tobacco are to be optimised, matching rates in Russia, while constant monitoring of retail prices on consumer products is to be conducted, with prompt action taken regarding unfair shop pricing.

Among the measures aimed at regulating the currency market, the Government proposes to allow taxes and fees to be paid in foreign currency, alongside fuel at fuelling stations, hotel services, tourist and educational services, and the purchase of property and cars. Privileges on the obligatory selling of foreign currency are supposed to be abolished for entrepreneurs.
The plan also envisages steps to eliminate price disproportions caused by rising energy prices. In particular, tariffs on electricity and heat energy for companies and individual entrepreneurs are to be indexed. Retail prices for oil products (sold domestically) are to be optimised, to eliminate price disparity with neighbouring states. Tariffs for city and railway transport, inter-city transportation and communication services may be reviewed.

By late 2012, citizens should be covering 30 percent of their housing and community utilities’ cost, with tariffs rising in two stages.

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