While analyzing the respondents’ answers to economic questions, there is always a feeling that some new ideas about how the country’s economy should be organized are more and more commonly expressed in Belarusian public opinion. Despite 59.4% of the respondents say they do not know much about economics, 69.3% of the pollsters are interested in economic issues. It’s possible to express a tentative guess that the people, in the name of whom authorities claimed they made economic decisions, are beginning to realize that living standards in “good” Belarus are much lower than in “bad” Poland, Lithuania or Estonia. Ideologues of “market socialism” could spend as much time as they want on trying to persuade people to go back to Socialist or, rather, Stalinist times; government lawyers can devise any regulations that almost make members of the National Assembly go crazy; official commentators could repeat a thousandth times that all measures taken by the government are timely and adequate to those who do not watch anything but the hypocritical national TV channel; top officials could do their best to explain why certain decisions that result in destroying normal life and creating obstacles to active and innovative people and amaze IMF and World Bank experts, but personal experience has a much more significant impact on views and ideas of the majority of the population.

Certainly, there are many supporters of “market socialism” in Belarus, especially among those whose education and professional training are inadequate to the modern requirements or whose age prevents them from understanding what is actually going on in the country. However, a substantial proportion of the population who compare official propaganda to reality, more and more often think about their prospects and the prospects of the whole country and begin to realize that authorities are trying to lead them in the wrong direction.

Answering the question on how the economic situation in Belarus changed in the last 12 months, 67.4% of the respondents chose the option “worsened” despite active state propaganda of alleged economic successes of the country. Only 8.5% of the pollsters indicated an improvement in the country’s economic situation. Only 7.8% said their personal financial situation had improved while 60.6% pointed to the opposite.

While comparing living standards in Belarus with those in neighboring countries, the respondents said they are higher in Latvia (77.8%), Lithuania (77.7%),and Poland (85.3%), that is, in the countries where market reforms have taken place. At the same time, only 24.5% of the respondents believe living standards are higher in Russia, a country with which Belarusian authorities are so eager to form a union and where market reforms were never completed.

Very revealing are the respondents’ answers to indicating questions that aim to determine how advanced towards market economy the population’s views are (see Tables 1-7). As we can see, the dynamics of the respondents’ answers is steadily shifting towards market economy. The proportion of those who would prefer market economy with little state interference is on the rise while the proportion of those who opt for substantial state interference with the economy is decreasing.

Table 1. The preferred type of economy, %

* In the surveys of 1994 through 1996, the respondents were not asked a question about the type of market economy

Table 2. The preferred type of ownership, %

Table 3. Should the state impose restrictions on people’s incomes? (%)

Table 4. Should the state control prices for goods and services? (%)

Table 5. What would you choose? (%)

Table 6. What kind of company would you prefer to work for? (%)

Table 7. In your opinion, is buying goods at a lower price and reselling them at a higher price an honest way to make money? (%)

* In June 1997, the options “rather yes than no” and “rather no than yes” were offered, which in the table are added to the “yes” and “no” options, respectively

The proportion of advocates of command economy has stabilized on a level that corresponds to the proportion of pensioners in the total population of the country. The proportion of those who believe that private ownership is more efficient than state ownership is on the rise. The proportion of those who believe that the state cannot and should not regulate process is slowly but steadily increasing, as well as the proportion of those who prefer a high insecure salary characteristic of a market economy to a low, but guaranteed “Socialist” salary. the proportion of those who opt for the latter is dwindling. More and more people believe that private trade is not speculation and stand up against restrictions on people’s income on the part of the state. Finally, the proportion of those who would prefer to work in the private sector of the economy has exceeded those interested in employment with a state-run company or organization.

In other words, despite enormous opportunities of the regime in regards to brainwashing and repressive propaganda, it has been unable to secure ideological domination. If the current tendencies continue, the regime might lose the population’s support.