As survey data suggest, conditions for private enterprise in Belarus continue to worsen. While in March 1999, 7.1% of the pollsters said the conditions had improved in the last two to three years, in November 1999 that figure dropped to 4.8%. At the same time, 36.7% believe that the state has substantially tightened control over private enterprise and 22.3% pointed to increased incidence of arbitrary actions on the part various state agencies against private entrepreneurs (see Table 1).

Table 1. The respondents’ opinions about changes of conditions for private enterprise in Belarus in the last two to three years, % (the respondents could choose more than one option)

* Respondents who have experience in private enterprise

Despite that, the proportion of those who would like to be involved in private enterprise improved over the six months between the two surveys (see Table 2). While in March 1999 43.6% would like to do so, in November that figure increased to 48.4%. At the same time, while in March 1999 48.9% of the pollsters said they agreed to live in a full economic dependence on the state, by November that figure decreased to 42.4%. We believe that has to do with the substantial shrinking of living standards in the state sector of the economy which makes Belarusian citizens look for other sources of income.

Table 2. Participation in private enterprise, %

>*In the November 1997 survey the options were “yes” and “no”

The same could be inferred from the respondents’ answers to the question about the sector of the economy in which they would prefer to be employed. As we can see, over the last eight months the proportion of those preferring to be employed in the state sector of the economy dropped substantially from 58.7% in March to 49.1% in November (see Table 3). Simultaneously, the proportion of those opting for the private sector rose from 30.0% to 43.9%. Therefore, the population is very sensitive to the consequences of the system crisis of the Belarusian economy and people would prefer to work in the sector where those consequences are not felt so painfully while the level of incomes is much higher. Notably, 38.1% of the respondents would like their children to be involved in private enterprise, considering that as a basis for material well-being (28.6%) and an interesting creative occupation for smart people (17.7%). Only 26.0% of the pollsters did not want their children to be involved in private enterprise saying that was insecure in this country (23.8%) and the probability of getting associated with the criminal world and being thrown to prison is high (10.3%).

Table 3. What kind of company would you prefer to work for? (%)

Thus, the population understands from its experience that the official policy aimed at strengthening the state sector of the economy is leading towards further deterioration of the economy, shrinking living standards and impoverishment of the population. The majority have already understood the unquestionable advantages of the private sector and the necessity to develop it. Our population understands well that if taxes on private enterprises are lowered (71.1% of the respondents), legal guarantees for private enterprise are created (70.4%), state support is provided (68.1%), license issue procedures are made less complicated (59.5%) as opposed to regular reregistration of companies (22.4%), tightening control (27.4%) and introducing more complicated procedures for issuing licenses (9.1%), the development of private enterprise in this country would be more active. As the pollsters say, Belarusian private entrepreneurs possess not only negative qualities, such as greed (56.3%), inclination for swindling (47.8%), being poorly cultured (34.5%) and lack of desire to work honestly (29.1%), but also positive qualities, such as business grip (58.5%), hard-working (54.5%), innovative attitude and persistence (48.2%), rational thinking (34.4%).

If the government understood that too, private entrepreneurs would not have to go on strike against raising taxes and introducing restrictions on their activities. Incidentally, 47.2% of the population support private entrepreneurs’ strikes and only 21.1% do not support.

Generally, the results of the survey allow us to say that neither the active governmental policy aimed against private enterprise nor tight economic and legal conditions under which entrepreneurs have to work, have not extirpate the normal desire of Belarusians to be involved in private enterprise and consequently have a good income to support decent living conditions for themselves and their families, and are not likely to do so in the future.