Mikhail Myasnikovich, now the Chairman of the Council of the Republic (the upper house of the Belarusian Parliament) gave a surprisingly frank interview to the state-run "Zvyazda" (Star) newspaper. In his opinion, the major country's problems are low salaries, redundant staff at enterprises, specialists and workers leaving abroad in search for decent work, and an increase of poor population.
On excessive labour force at enterprises
"State-owned enterprises and large private companies keep excessive employees; they are forced to do so by local authorities, who wouldn't care about creating new jobs. As a result, the country's average salary is low," Mr Myasnikovich has stated. "Let me remind you that in January, almost every second district (to be exact – 51 out of 112 Belarusian districts) had the average accrued (prior to taxation) salary below BYN 700; and the two poorest districts – even below BYN 600."
"Given the excessive labour force, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have to decrease wages and salaries, which is also adversely affecting the social climate. The main thing for all managers and deputies is the creation of new enterprises, the growth of production volumes. There is a tool for this: Presidential Decree No. 7. It should be urgently followed; as a lot of time has passed since its adoption (in November 2017), but there's no entrepreneurial boom, especially in the Vitebsk and Mogilev Regions," Mr Myasnikovich has stated.
About the growing number of poor families
"Special attention should be paid to incomes of citizens, especially, of families with children. In Belarus, almost 2/3 of families with children are poor. In recent years, the trend is downward; and the number of low-income families with children, in which the per capita income is below the minimum consumer budget (MCB) (BYN 347.74), has slightly increased," Mikhail Myasnikovich has stated. In his opinion, "it's necessary to take into account that not all our citizens are predisposed to doing business independently; many prefer to work for an employer, and it's very difficult to create an employer without the help of the state. In our conditions, I believe, it is not reasonable to completely give up the state support for enterprises. Many of them were built and modernized, as a rule, in the directive way and in objectively difficult conditions not formed by them. Therefore, if some economic entities that are going out of the crisis are helped, they will contribute to the GDP and to people's incomes, and to stabilization as a whole."
About those leaving for work abroad, wage arrears and demography problems
"Since 2017, we watch a sharp deterioration in the demographic situation. In two years (according to preliminary data), the republic's population dropped by 29,100, making, as of January 1, 2019, 9,475,600. In fact, we returned to early 2015," Mr Myasnikovich has noted. He is convinced that "the main impact on the demography comes from poor birth rate and low migration inflow, which cannot compensate for the natural loss of the population. According to preliminary data, last year Belarus had 94,400 newborns, which is by 20% less than in 2016. The birth rate fell from 12.4 to 10 babies per 1000 of population. This is the lowest level in the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU)."
"Of particular concern is the fact that, compared with 2016, the number of first children in families dropped by almost 24%; the second – by 21% percent, and the third – by 13%. The worst birth rates are in Minsk and Vitebsk Region. I recommend considering the issue at local Councils of Deputies. There are good examples: in 2011-2018, birth rates were high in the Brest, Minsk and Grodno Regions, while others are rapidly losing their population."
"In 2018, for the first time in the last 7 years, we saw an increase of mortality rate in capable age. Analysis shows that the increase of the retirement age had no significant impact on this indicator. Local governments in each region and district should consider the problem individually. Are leaders of local councils aware of it?"
"We should also note problems with labour migration abroad, especially of highly-qualified workers," said Mikhail Myasnikovich. "According to a selective household survey, in 2018, the number of citizens working abroad (without changing their residence) made 95,400 – more than in 2017. Local self-governments should not stand aside. Even the modest wages should be paid in time."
"In 2018, 2618 facts were revealed of employers' delays in paying wages; and where were the MPs, who represent the interests of their voters, and trade unions at that moment?" Mr Myasnikovich has asked.
"What districts are among losers?"
"31 districts of Belarus are lagging behind in terms of socioeconomic development, that is, a quarter of all country's districts. This figure speaks for itself," Mikhail Myasnikovich has stated. "There are three such districts in the Brest Region (the Gantsevichi, Drogichin and Malorita ones); seven – in the Vitebsk Region (the Gorodok, Liozno, Miory, Senno, Ushachi, Sharkovshchina and Shumilino ones); eight – in the Gomel Region (the Vetka, Dobrush, Korma, Lelchitsy, Loev, Narovlya, Petrikov and Chechersk ones); three – in the Grodno Region (the Voronovo, Zelva and Svisloch ones); three – in the Minsk Region (the Kletsk, Kopyl and Lyuban ones); and seven – in the Mogilev Region (the Glussk, Kirovsk, Krasnopolye, Slavgorod, Khotimsk, Chaussy and Cherikov Districts)."
"Give people land to build houses, give loans to young families with children; give also land to build facilities for rendering services and make products; and cancel the administrative pressure on investors," Mikhail Myasnikovich has summed up.
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