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TO LIVE IS DIFFICULT, BUT IT CAN BE ENDURED

A timid hint at a growth in the positive attitude registered in September took shape of a clear tendency in December. Let us refer to Tables 1-3. If in September the financial standing index (FSI) and the expectation index (EI) increased by 3.2 and 3.8 percentage points respectively, and the index of policy correctness (PCI) continued to decrease (–15.8 points relative to September), then in December the FSI added 15.9, the EI – 11.9, and the PCI – 21.4 percentage points! What gave rise to such a drastic change of the trend – objective or subjective reasons?

Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “How has your personal financial standing changed for the last three months?”, %

Variant of answer

12’10

03’11

06’11

09’11

12’11

It has improved

24.9

17.2

1.6

5.1

7.1

It has not changed

57.7

54.8

23.2

20.0

31.3

It has become worse

16.0

26.9

73.4

73.7

59.8

FSI*

8.9

–3.7

–71.8

–68.6

–52.7

* Financial standing index (the difference of positive and negative answers)

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “How is the socio-economic situation going to change in Belarus within the next few years?”, %

Variant of answer

12’10

03’11

06’11

09’11

12’11

It is going to improve

30.6

29.2

11.9

12.9

17.1

It is not going to change

40.7

42.0

20.3

24.1

24.8

It is going to become worse

17.2

23.0

55.5

52.7

45.0

EI*

13.4

6.2

–43.6

–39.8

–27.9

* Expectation index

Table 3. Dynamics of answering the question: “Is the state of things in general developing in the right or in the wrong direction in our country?”, %

Variant of answer

12’10

03’11

06’11

09’11

12’11

In the right direction

54.2

45.3

26.1

17.0

25.6

In the wrong direction

32.5

40.0

61.8

68.5

55.7

DA/NA

13.3

14.7

12.1

14.5

18.7

PCI*

21.7

5.3

–35.7

–51.5

–30.1

* Policy correctness index

In our opinion, renunciation by the state of administrative methods of regulating the Belarusian ruble rate became the main event of the autumn. After October 20 the population got the opportunity to freely buy hard currency again. Belarus is not Russia. The dollarization level of economy is so high by the direct descendants of the legendary Soviet partisans, that the loss of a chance to convert rubles into dollars and euros means a collapse of habitual life strategies for many people in the republic-the-partisan. An obvious deceleration of inflation also made its contribution into the growth of the positive attitude. In September, according to the data of Belstat, the consumer price index made up 113.6%, in October – 108.2%, in November – 108.1%, in December (from the 1st to the 20th) – 101.7%.

Among the subjective factors let us mention Belarusian-Russian agreements following the results of which it once again rained dollars in the country. Only next year the total amount of the subsidized “precipitation” is going to account for several billion dollars. Why should not people look to the future with optimism and approve of the country’s development policy with such bounties? For almost 17 years already Belarus under the guidance of its “only politician” has been steering on the course of drawing Russian subsidies. Their receipt interruptions after 2007 revealed non-self-sufficiency of the “Belarusian economic development model”; however, after the November agreements in Moscow the heaves opened again, thus having laid the groundwork for social stability for the next year.

As it follows from Table 4, the overwhelming majority of Belarusians are still far apart from the thought that the crisis is coming to an end. However, positive progress has also been made concerning the assessment of the current condition of economy: the share of affirmative answers has decreased by 6.1 percentage points relative to September.

Table 4. Dynamics of answering the question: “Do you think that Belarusian economy is in crisis?”, %

Variant of answer

06’11

09’11

12’11

Yes

81.5

87.6

81.5

No

8.4

8.0

8.0

DA/NA

10.1

4.4

10.5

One should not forget about the phenomenal ability of Belarusians to adapt to the negative external circumstances by means of reducing their demands. That is why it is far from being accidental that the option “It is difficult to live, but it is possible to endure” (Table 5) was the most popular answer during the year of an impetuous income growth on the eve of the second presidential elections, as well as during the relatively successful 2004 and during the crisis year of 2011. One should not think that the ability to endure is peculiar exclusively to the “complaisant” Belarusians. Let us clear the floor for the Russian political scientist V. Gelman: “How do individuals and whole countries react to crises? According to Albert Hirschman, there are two main models: “protest” (voice) and “going away” (exit). Protest is active counteracting crisis phenomena; it is an attempt to struggle against them. Mobilization in Russia in the course of the downfall of the Soviet regime in 1989-1991 was an example of mass protest. Going away is egress in other dimension, some other space, and emigration in the long run. It seems to me that our country responded to many crisis phenomena of the 90s and still responds today mostly by going away. However, there is no common vector of going away. There are various types of it. It is localization, concentration on local problems and local life. It is flight from politics, going away from public life to consuming, to one’s own business, to virtual worlds”.

Table 5. Dynamics of answering the question: “In your opinion, which of the given below statements best corresponds to the established situation?”, %

Variant of answer

08’01

04’02

12’11

Everything is not so bad and it is possible to live

25.3

17.2

15.6

It is difficult to live, but it is possible to endure

54.2

57.0

52.2

It is impossible to endure our misery any longer

18.5

24.0

29.7

DA/NA

2.0

1.8

2.5

Let us add that hard drinking is one of the most popular and, what is most important, available means of relocation to the “virtual worlds” for Belarusians. Official statistics confirms the mentioned conclusion. Between January and November of 2011 they sold alcoholic beverages and beer for 7.6 trillion rubles through the retail chain, which makes up 10.3% in the retail turnover. It is in monetary terms, in the absolute alcohol the increase constituted 10.4% during the period between January and November. It is crisis!

As it follows from Table 6, endurance in Belarus all ages yield surrender. It is another question to what extent the fits of endurance are beneficial. It might be difficult to recollect another case when the respondents’ age was so indifferent when they answered the question far from being neutral from the political point of view. The last two lines of Table 6 prove that the question is politically loaded. The difference is also small if we compare the answers of men and women. The gender aspect almost does not influence the ability to endure. As for the level of education, the distinctions are slight here too. The only exceptions are people with elementary education. As we have already mentioned more than once, the base of the given group is formed by elderly women living in the countryside. It is clear that they are not active purchasers of modern consumer goods and the share of the plots of land attached to their houses is quite large in the structure of their income. That is why there is nothing surprising in the fact that for them “everything is not so bad, and one can live”.

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “In your opinion, which of the given below statements best corresponds to the established situation?” depending on the socio-demographic characteristics and attitude to the authorities, %

Variant of answer

Everything is not so bad

It is possible to endure

It is impossible to endure

Gender:
Male

14.3

50.7

32.6

Female

16.7

53.4

27.3

Age:
18-29

14.6

50.2

33.4

30-39

15.2

52.3

29.5

40-49

13.2

52.0

31.7

50-59

13.2

55.1

28.7

60 +

21.2

52.2

25.1

Education:
Primary

25.0

61.5

13.5

Incomplete secondary

13.9

50.9

31.5

Secondary

14.2

50.1

32.9

Vocational

14.2

52.7

30.9

Higher

17.8

52.8

26.7

Attitude to the authorities:
Consider myself in opposition

6.4

43.1

49.3

Do not consider myself in opposition

20.7

56.5

20.4

Acuteness of the crisis perception depends not only on the condition of economy, but also on the availability of alternatives. Protest is an alternative to endurance. However, under the conditions of a low social capital, when as a rule people’s trust does not overstep the bounds of their immediate environment (the family, friends, and co-workers) one should not count on direct transformation of dissatisfaction to protest.