The respondents’ opinions of the economic side of today’s life also excite curiosity. The results of the survey prove that more and more people give preference to market economy thinking regardless of the active rhetoric of market socialism adherents. The number of supporters of a market economy with a slight state control (which almost conforms to a liberal economic model) reached 35.2%, up 4.8% from the June 1997 level (see Table 1). The number of those who stay loyal to the market economy with considerable state control (a social democratic model) eased up 4.4%. The planned economy (a communist model) is still popular, though previously the “in favor” figure was 7.5% higher.

Table 1. Preferred type of economy, %

Therefore, almost three quarters (74.6 %) of respondents gave preference to the market economy with a different extent of state control, whereas last year only 65.4% of people polled supported this model. Consequently, the overwhelming majority spurn the communist model of economic development and even vigorous attempts of the Belarusian mass media to blame the supporters of market reforms for the Russian financial crisis do not affect public opinion.

Nevertheless, the respondents’ positive approach to a market economy runs counter to their vision of this model. More than half (50.1%) of those who were polled still believe that their earnings depend on the president, government and parliament whereas only 15.2% link this dependence to their own efforts. Around 57.8% of respondents failed to find second employment during this year in order to improve their financial status.

The discrepancy between desires and opinions resulted in a contradiction of the respondents’ statements. Some 87.1% (up 9.2% from last year) of the people who took part in the questionnaire would prefer a wide range of high quality goods at free prices and 74.3% (up 6.6% from 1997) of respondents think that the state must set up prices. These data suggest a shift of popular thinking towards supporting the market economy, but their market values are newly-formed and disordered, not corresponding to their world-views. Most respondents would like to benefit from all advantages of market economy (wide range of high quality goods and high wages) but, at the same time, avoiding all inevitable hardships (possibility of losing job, constant search for employment and raising of one’s skills).

The official mass media fails to persuade Belarusians of an economic breakthrough under the present regime and 76.5% (66.7% in December 1997) of respondents emphasized that the present state policy had brought about no financial relief. 88.5% of those surveyed stressed that their well-being did not improve in spite of the reported steady economic growth. Almost the same number, 84.8% (up from 79.4% in December 1997) claimed their welfare did not improve in 1998.

The official explanation of the spring currency crisis (conspiracy of Russian bankers and politicians who backed them up) was accepted by only 31.9% of the people polled, whereas 54.7% of respondents cited flaws in Belarusian state policy as a plausible reason for the currency crumble.

Unfortunately, Belarusians do not realize that living standards in the country are contingent upon its economic policy. Some 81.5% of respondents have not the slightest idea about the shock therapy aftermath in Poland 74,1% about agriculture instability in the neighboring Lithuania and consider their living conditions to be much better as compared to those in Belarus.

Nevertheless, the majority of the population are gradually becoming aware that current Belarusian economic policy will inevitably drive the national economy into the doldrums. Not surprisingly, 56.7% of all respondents claimed the state should not limit personal earnings, while 54.9% justified the struggle of the entrepreneurs “shuttles” against heavy taxation.