25 September 2018, Tuesday, 7:04
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Pensioners of Belarus To Be Cut In Half

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The authorities may face the stalemate.

The Russian government has offered to increase the retirement age from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 years for men. The relevant bill is sent to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

More than a million of Russians signed the petition demanding the abolition of the draft bill. "At the current demographic trend in Russia, 40% of men and 20% of women will not reach the age of 65 years," the petition says. There were protest actions in some Russian cities.

The authorities of Belarus are now discussing an opportunity of the unplanned retirement age increase. At that, since 2017 the country has been experiencing the "pension reform": The process ends in 2022, when women retire at the age of 58 and men at 63. At that, after 2022 the retirement age of women and men may be equated.

Why is it needed to do it now? Why does it happen in two countries almost simultaneously? Ales Yauseyenka, representative of the Belarusian National Congress in Homel, and Doctor of Economics Barys Zhaliba answer questions of Charter97.org.

"Besieged fortress" on shoulders of pensioners

"The Belarusian and Russian economy is an educational exhibit on the same sores," Barys Zhaliba believes.

- Both economies are ineffective. And if Russia at least has huge natural resources, Belarus performs with a model that has not changed for, perhaps, 25 years. Pension funds of two countries experience a sharp shortage of funds. And the budget covers this shortage. The easiest way is to cut the number of pensioners. And that's the option two governments have adopted.

It would be right to promote the efficiency increase of the economy. But here, as they say, is the issue of priorities. Putin was once asked how long money would be spent on planes and tanks, instead of investing it in well-being of citizens. The answer is clear, if the state wants to wage two wars at the same time. Law enforcement agencies and state apparatus are of priority in Belarus. Neither money nor time remains for pensioners.

"The retirement age increase is inevitable is the so-called Union State," Ales Yauseyenka says.

- The process will be concerted. After all, this is the "Union State". Lukashenka and Putin live in the "reality" with threats everywhere. That is why the "besieged fortress" is built on shoulders of pensioners. The enforcement gang - the army, law enforcement agencies, police, who provide the stance of stability - require investments. The other reason for such a pension reform to prevent these bodies from going against both authoritarian regimes. There is no other way to find money in the treasury.

Pensioners to be cut in half

"It's quite cynical to save money at the expense of those who reach the retirement age", Barys Zhaliba believes.

- Belarusian and Russian authorities cite to developed countries with the retirement age of more than 65 years, and the retirement age of men and women is equeted. But they fail to remember one significant detail - quality and life expectancy. For example, live expectancy is 80 years in Japan. A Japanese is able to reach the retirement age and then spend other 15 years traveling and enjoying life. Life expectancy of men in Belarus and Russia is 64-65 years. It turns out that many of them do not reach the pension.

About 40% of men do not make it to the pension. I think such a percentage is fair for Belarus. . The problem is nearly identic. It's quite cynical to save on men a half of whom fails to reach the pension. Taken the negative statistics for women, one can assert that the number of pensioners of Russia and Belarus will dramatically decrease.

"The number of those subject to pension can drop in half after the "reform", Ales Yauseyenka believes.

I guess the authorities aim at such an indicator. Let's take a real life as an example. The retirement age for men will be increased up to 63 years. I had two older brothers: one passed away at the age of 61, the second at 63. Given the fact that women live longer and make up to half of the population, the number of pensioners will be cut in half. Or even more. The immunity of people is weakened not only by ecology, but also by difficult economic and social situation. No improvements are expected under the current regime. Many people will not reach the retirement age.

Bread, milk and canned sprat

"After the collapse of the USSR, the starting conditions were almost equal in Belarus and Poland. But we can observe the result," Barys Zhaliba sums up.

Now the economy of Poland is developing much more effectively, and the neighboring state can afford to pay citizens a pension several times greater than in Belarus. Their average salary equals to $1300. Our salaries of $150 are lagging behind. This once again confirms the deficiency of the "Belarusian model" of the economy and the cynicism of priorities in allocation of budget funds.

It turns out that other countries find funds for a decent life of pensioners, and our country and Russia do not, and they do not want to. The social contract between the state and pensioners is irrevocably violated. The statement that the state owes to citizens who worked hard is becoming increasingly fair. Alas, Belarus has not followed the civilized world in footsteps.

"Anti-utopia of Orwell is performed in Belarus," Ales Yauseyenka believes.

- I remember well the 90s, I used to manage a branch of the BPF party in Homel. The Poles arrived and swapped their jewelry for our canned sprats. People had nothing to eat then. And now the pension of a Polish pensioner is four times more than that of a Belarusian one. The solidarity gave a chance for the Polish state and the people to move forward. Not only the Trade Union and the Solidarity movement made it possible, but also the sense of national unity. We failed with this sense of national unity, that's why now we've found ourselves in the situation to swap something for canned sprat.

A Belarusian pensioner has to buy the cheapest set: bread, milk and canned sprat. But the quality of this canned sprat deteriorated. Moreover, people do not hesitate to look for food in garbage cans. They are pensioners and even people employed. It indicates that Lukashenka's model has reached the bottom. "Social state" project failed.

However, the anti-utopia of Orwell is performed. The Ministry of Peace deals with war here. The Minister of Truth is engaged in lies. If someone says about the "social state", it does not exist then and the major part of the society is left out in the cold.

Quantity is transformed into quality

"The authorities may face the stalemate, social protests may be even severe than those of 2017," Ales Yauseyenka sums up.

- You know, even more severe protests than those in 2017 may occur, if interests of vast segments of population are affected. It's the law of physics: quantity is transformed into quality. Pensioners alone can't perform as a revolutionary force. But if more social groups are resented, then it's a different story.

Now pensioners are not the most vulnerable strata of the population. The young face more challenges in Belarus. The social paradox of Belarus is that the young often find themselves bound to financial assistance rendered by pensioners; it's caused by miserable salaries and high level of concealed unemployment. The retirement age increase will contribute to cuts in jobs for the young, as well as in the number of pensioners who render assistance to their grandchildren. Then it will cause the extension of social base for protests and the situation for the authorities can transform in the stalemate.