ENNews 16.11.2014

The tax on unemployment

nezaměstnanostBelarusian state officials have got a two month deadline from Alexander Lukashenko for the development of a plan to combat “parasitism”. That’s how the long-term unemployed who refuse job offers from the state are suggested to be called nowadays.

It was probably in the early 80s when similar terms were used at the highest level of Belarusian government for the last time. Then the Communist Party General Secretary Andropov declared war on unemployment, calling it “parasitism”. During that wave of struggle with hidden unemployment it even happened that in the search for “parasites” the police could check the documents of shoppers who were not fortunate to catch policemen’s attention during work hours.

Today Alexander Lukashenko and the Belarusian government are bothered by 500,000 officially unemployed citizens. The figure is really impressive when one considers that the total number of the working population is about 6 million people. Lukashenko declared that: “The population is aging. If in 2010 on 1 (non-working-Ed.) person there were 2.7 people of working age, this indicator tends to be around 2 today”. Thus, according to his forecast, we should expect labor shortages and increasing burden on social security, primarily on health care and pension systems.

The stimulation of Belarusian citizens will be effected in a few ways. Thus, the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Belarus has offered to introduce administrative responsibility for “parasitism”. As the Belarusian law does not yet contain any content of such a crime or penalties for it, it has been proposed to punish those who do not pay state taxes and fees for more than 6 months.

The public opinion, on the other hand, was being prepared for the idea of  thriftiness long before the orders of the president. Even before this idea became a “trend”, Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik had been publicly calling for a tax on “parasitism” for the whole last year. (This is not the first “know-how” suggested by him. Among other things, he “suggested” to introduce the following in Belarus: limits to free access to hospitals, legal obligation for adult children to care for their elderly parents, confiscation of vehicles for drunken driving, limited alcohol sales at night and so on. We must pay tribute to the “lobbying” talent of the Deputy Prime Minister. The vehicles of drunk drivers are now indeed being confiscated. The tax on “parasitism”, recently proposed by the Interior Ministry, as we see, was also his initiative.)

In addition to Tozik and MIA, almost all the state officials of Belarus have said something on the topic – deputies, chairman of the National Bank, the Attorney General, the heads of the regions. Virtually all their comments come down to the following: people who do not pay taxes will not be able to use the social support of the state.

At the same time, the government of Belarus has been recommended to solve the staffing shortages solely by internal forces, without excessive involvement of foreign personnel. In order to avoid ethnic tension among other things.

It is too early to say what will another “campaign” of the president bring. The last project codenamed  “Modernization” (it was mainly aimed at the modernization of industry) resulted in scandals and criminal cases for embezzled money. However, this time the directive was to manage the situation with mere enthusiasm, without additional budget funding.