«

»

BELARUSIANS DO NOT SUPPORT ALEXANDER LUKASHENKO’S ECONOMIC COURSE

Three years ago slightly less than 66% of respondents said that they preferred a market economy with various degrees of involvement from the state (Table 1). Today this model is supported by almost 75% of respondents. At the same time, the number of people who choose the socialist-type administrative economy diminished by 7.6%. So, A. Lukashenko’s recent statements in the lower chamber of “parliament”, that his economic course is correct and is supported by all the population, look hypocritical. The electorate, meanwhile, makes a grounded choice of the market economy, preferring it to “market socialism” advocated by the authorities. Despite the official propaganda, a large part of the population (53.1%) thinks that private property, which is a basic element of the market economy, is more efficient than state property. Only 39.6% of respondents support a contrary vision. Currently, 73.9% of people think that the Belarusian people must have a right to own land, while only 14% of respondents said they were against this right.
Table 1. Preferred type of economy, %

Contrary to A. Lukashenko’s rhetorics, more supporters of the market economy choose its liberal variant, i.e. the variant with little interference from the government, while the share of those who support the option with heavy state regulation decreases (Table 1). Undoubtedly, this is an accomplishment of the authorities: their activities aimed at giving the state a bigger role in economy have complicated the economic activity, brought about lots of officials, control agencies and police, introduced a lot of licenses, certificates, permissions, taxes and other limitations, highlighting the aftermath of the state’s interference into the economy, which had been concealed.
Still, the authorities cannot achieve stabilization and a sounder economy. Only 7% of respondents said that the economic situation in the country improved over the last year, while 64.8% said that it deteriorated. Only 8% said that their personal welfare improved during the same period, and 63.3% said it deteriorated.
The survey showed that 68.2% of the population lives in poverty – as of March 2000 their income per capita did not exceed the living wage. Only 9.2% of respondents have an average income per capita over the minimum consumer budget (the level of bare reproduction). Only 1.8% of respondents said that their monthly income was $100 per capita, which is little money even in the neighboring Poland.
It is interesting that the views of the majority of electorate directly contradict the basis of A. Lukashenko’s economic policies. 68.2% of respondents said that it would be correct to increase wages, pensions ad social payments, but make people pay the full price of communal services and public transport. Only 30.5% think that this is inappropriate. The overwhelming majority of respondents said that market reform must be faster implemented to improve the economic situation in the country (74.3% in favor, and 23.6% against). Most people think that the state must facilitate the development of private business and support it (71.4% in favor, 26.9% against), make taxes lower (92.2% in favor, 5.9% against), cut finance on defense and production of weapons (60.9% in favor, 36.6% against), discontinue financing loss-making companies (69.6% in favor, 28.6% against). Even when it comes to support of state farms and collective farms, people’s views disagree with the policies of A. Lukashenko: 41.8% thought that farms needed financial support, and 56.6% were against the support of farms.
Small doubt, the people have already understood, who is to blame for the country’s economic problems: 42.1% said it was the government, and 38.6% said it was president himself (which basically is the same). Local authorities were in third place with a “score” of 28.9%. Only 2.6% of respondents blamed democrats “who ruined” something, and 2.7% said businessmen (a.k.a. “lousy flees”) were to blame. 4.6% mentioned the evil West, which dreamt of destroying their home country.
So, the attempt to realize the ideas of market socialism in a single country resulted in an increase of the number of supporters of free market and a decrease of the quantity of those, who does not mind that the officials control the economy. The electorate begins to realize, that the authorities are to blame for the economic problems, which rock the country.
Who is going to help us out of this situation? On whom do Belarusians rely? According to Table 2, most people think they will survive themselves without external support.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “Who do you think is going to make life in the country better?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

It is not a secret that the conditions for private business in Belarus are far from being ideal. Only 8.6% of respondents said that they improved during the last two or three years. The others said that they deteriorated: 36.9% thought that the government has introduced new harsh measures to regulate private business, and 25.3% said that there was an increase of arbitrariness of government agencies (executive committees, tax inspections, fire brigade, police etc.) to private business.
Speaking about business conditions in Belarus, Russian and Polish entrepreneurs characterize them as crazy. Belarusians have to experience the authorities’ attitude to business practically. You can try any Minsk clothes shop – you will be amazed how closely they managed to reproduce the atmosphere of the Soviet 60-ies, including a limited offer of merchandise, absence of necessary fits and sizes, black-and-gray gamma and the musty smell. Three or four years ago it looked different. According to the results of the survey, 75% of the population currently prefer to buy goods and food in the market, because the offer is wider, prices are lower and one can compromise.
The results of the poll also show that despite problems and propaganda, people support businessmen. Almost half of the eligible population (48.6%) openly sympathizes with market vendors in their struggle against higher taxes and limitations, introduced by the government, and only 17.4% disapprove of it. The number of people, who are ready to try private business as an occupation is on the rise, while the quantity of those, who agree to live in full economic dependence on the government, decreased (see Table 3).

Table 3. Respondents’ attitude to private business, %

According to the latest poll, 40% of respondents wanted to work in the private sector of the economy, 10% up from the previous year. Almost 40% of respondents said they would like their children to try private business!
Neither the anti-business stand of the authorities, nor the deteriorating economic situation, prohibitions and limitations can root out a normal desire to be engaged in private business and gain a real source of income for their families in the Belarusian people.