12 November 2019, Tuesday, 2:40
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An Unemployed in the EU Lives Better Than an Employed Belarusian, Economist Says

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An Unemployed in the EU Lives Better Than an Employed Belarusian, Economist Says

Most of our citizens work for food.

About half of Belarusians live on $150-250 per month. Official propaganda cannot hide these figures, which have appeared in the Belstat report.

$150 for all expenses per month - is that much or not? And how does the standard of living of Belarusians look like in the background of neighboring countries?

Economist Leu Marholin answers questions of Charter97.org.

- Many people compare the Belstat data with an "average temperature" at a hospital. And how does the majority of Belarusian families live?

- The fact is that the level of consumption and the level of wages are not always related values. These data show the level of consumption. And I can say that it significantly exceeds the income level of most Belarusians.

It's not a secret that we still have some balances on deposits - both ruble and foreign ones. There is "grey" employment when people do not declare their additional earnings.

Therefore, these numbers are approximately the same as the actual figures. But it means that people live on amounts much higher than the official salary data.

It's impossible to live on real wages, especially those paid in the regions. The most common salary in the regions is 300 rubles (150 dollars). But even if two people in a family work and there are at least two children, it already turns out to be not 150, but 75 dollars a month per person. It is almost impossible to live off this money.

That's why people open up "money boxes", find unofficial jobs and thus survive.

The figures given by Belstat are close to reality, since this is not an average salary that can be manipulated in any way. This is the level of consumption, which is easily calculated on the basis of store revenues, utility bills, etc. Therefore, the figures are reasonable, and they show that the majority of the population incurs more expenses than income, and people eat out their savings.

- Which countries can Belarus be compared to in terms of living standards?

- $150 per person a month is very little. Belarus can only be compared in terms of consumption with Russia and the warring Ukraine (I mean the European continent, I do not take Central Asia and Africa in account).

At the same time, it's necessary to compare it with the Russian countryside, not with large cities with already higher level of consumption than ours.

In European countries, even those that used to be considered richer than Belarus - Bulgaria, Romania - the consumption level is much higher today.

Moreover, an unemployed in developed countries lives better than a common Belarusian in terms of consumption. However, if this unemployed person wants to work, because the unemployment benefit in most countries is linked to the salary at the latest place of work.

But, unlike Belarus, governments in developed countries believe that if a person loses his job, he needs help - the help to maintain a decent standard of living. And no one levy any additional taxes on them - in the form of our increased utility charges for "parasites".

Therefore, the unemployed live better in developed countries than the working Belarusians.

- What can $150 be spent on?

- It's only enough for essentials. If a family with two working parents and two children spends even $500 a month (I'm not talking about $300, on the lower border of statistics) - it's not a luxury.

At least a hundred rubles should be taken out for utility charges. Today we can't do without a mobile phone and the Internet - it's also a mandatory payment, not a luxury. School kit and clothes for two childrenis also a very costly thing.

As a result, money only for essentials remains - for a rather simple nutrition and clothes, usually of second hand. Belarus has recently turned into the country of second-hand shops - they are now at every step. The majority of the population has started to dress up in these shops to save money.

And all these people work. It turns out that the majority of the population works "for food". The majority of families can't afford a full-fledged vacation, to say nothing of going abroad. Most people can't afford entertainments even in the country: regular visits to the theater or cinema have also become an expensive amusement.

- This year tariffs for housing and communal services grow. What will happen to those 50% of Belarusians, who live on $150 per month?

- The authorities know that a sharp increase of utility prices will cause a great increase in utility arrears, so they are likely to be raised gradually. One cannot say that our utility charges are huge, but against the background of our low salaries it is a tangible item of expenditures. Therefore, those who cannot pay under new tariffs will simply have their utility arrears increased. In words, Belarus allegedly has preferential tariffs and benefits for the poor to pay for housing and communal services, but in fact, only few can use them.

- As an economist, what do you see as a way out of the situation where most families can afford only the essentials?

- The way out is very simple and well-known both to economists and non-economists. In order for people to live better, it's necessary to increase the volume of material goods produced in the country. And it cannot be done with directive indicators. Investments are needed, external ones. Not because Belarusians less smart or something else, but because they need investments related to new technologies and their own markets.

To put it simply, a person should come who, with the help of Belarusian workers, will produce competitive products and will not have any problems with their sales. But such a person will not come to Belarus, because there is competition for investors all over the world, and in our conditions private property is absolutely unprotected and it discourages investors.

Only a few come to us, either recklessly brave or on the basis of personal "agreements" with the authorities. And while there are no such investments, no changes for the better will occur.