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ECONOMICS IS GETTING BETTER NOWADAYS. HOW WILL IT LOOK TOMORROW?

Polling data reveals that the economic situation in the country has become more favorable in the past year. Thus, over the past two years the number of those who think their well-being improved has increased more than twofold – from 6.5% to 13.7% (See Table 1). On the other hand, the number of those who think their well-being deteriorated has decreased twofold (from 41.6% to 21.2%).

Table 1. Dynamics of answer distribution to the question “How did your well-being changed over the past three months?”, %

Variant of answer

03’03

03’04

03’05

Has improved

6.5

11.8

13.7

Hasn’t changed

50.5

58.1

61.8

Has deteriorated

41.6

28.2

21.2

Table 2 reflects the same tendency. It shows the dynamics of estimates by respondents of their per capita incomes. Thus, over the past two years the number of those who think their per capita incomes don’t exceed the living wage has dropped more than twofold. The number of those who estimate their incomes as above poverty line but within minimum consumer budget has increased almost 1.8-fold (from 26.4% to 46.8%). Finally, the number of those whose per capita incomes exceed minimum consumer budget has increased nearly twofold (from 12.8% to 24.5%).

Table 2. Dynamics of average per capita incomes (including wages, pensions, benefits and other extra earnings) per one family member in the previous month, %

Variant of answer

03’03

03’04

03’05

Below living wage budget

60.3

45.6

28.0

From living wage budget to minimum consumer budget

26.4

35.8

46.8

Above minimum consumer budget

12.8

18.0

24.5

However, answers of respondents to the question on the items that they can buy from their incomes show that the estimates of economic situation in the country are rather controversial. (See Table 3). Thus, since October of 2001, i.e. for the past 3.5 years, the situation has slightly improved in the group of those whose incomes are barely sufficient for expenditures: in relation to normal nutrition, their number dropped down by nine points (from 48.3% to 39.4%) and in relation to purchasing of clothes and footwear, their number dropped down by seven points (from 55.6% to 48.5%). The same is the tendency in the group of those whose incomes are fully sufficient: in relation to normal nutrition as well as to purchasing of clothes and footwear, their number has gone up by seven points (from 40.1% to 47.2% and from 17.2% to 24.3% respectively). Still, ability of people to make big purchases almost haven’t improved. Also, the group of those whose incomes are not enough for any expenditure hasn’t changed.

Table 3. Dynamics of answer distribution to the question “To which extent your (your family’s) current incomes are sufficient:”, %

Variant of answer

Insufficient

Hardly sufficient

Fully sufficient

10’01

03’05

10’01

03’05

10’01

03’05

For making big purchases (furniture, car, apartment)

81.0

79.8

14.8

15.4

2.6

3.0

For purchasing clothes and footwear

26.6

26.5

55.6

48.5

17.2

24.3

For having normal nutrition

11.0

12.6

48.3

39.4

40.1

47.2

In other words, we can see certain improvement in what applies to covering primary needs, i.e. normal nutrition and purchasing of clothes and footwear. This is, undoubtedly, crucial achievement that is given proper assessment (See Table 4). As one can see, people’s assessment of the activity undertaken by all basic branches of power has grown up considerably.

Table 4. Dynamics of answer distribution to the question “How do you assess, at the five-point scale, the work of Belarusian authorities?”, %

Variant of answer

09’02

03’05

President

2.82

3.43

Government

2.54

2.97

Parliament

2.46

2.87

Local authorities

2.46

2.70

On the other hand, no improvement beyond the sphere of primary needs indicates existence of the same problems which some time ago brought to the collapse of the “developed socialism”. There’s only one difference comparing with that time: the necessary material comforts (apartments, cars, furniture, etc.) are now in excess supply and can be purchased without any good connections but people don’t have money to afford them. In order to have the level of incomes increased, it is necessary to increase efficiency of the economics first. Unfortunately, nowadays there are more problems in this regards than progress. Improvement of the Belarusian economics depends directly on the favorable situation at the world energy market. Increased flow of petrodollars has raised demand for Belarusian goods in Russia. This demand will sooner or later go down as the price-quality relationship of the Belarusian goods yields to other producers. The only way out is to develop and renovate production in Belarus as well as attract foreign investments. This can happen provided the situation in the country is predictable, economic law is stable and the authorities observe basic human rights. So far, this is a problem.