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BELARUSIANS DON’T BELIEVE IN STABILITY OF RUBLE

According to information from the National Bank of Belarus, de-dollarization of economy in the country continues, which is caused by stable exchange rate of the national currency, constant inflation decrease, and current exchange rate policy. It would be prematurely to speak about first successful results of the main financial regulator in de-dollarization for understandable reasons. However, March survey confirms topicality of this policy. 34.1% of Belarusians constantly check how their incomes change expressed in dollars, 43.5% do it from time to time, and only 17.6% – never.
This attention to the “buck” isn’t out of the blue. Over the years of independence inflation in Belarus exceeded one and a half trillion percent.
Table 1 data let us to draw a portrait of a Belarusian, constantly preoccupied with the dollar equivalent of his incomes. This portrait is quite recognizable, as it resembles almost any ordinary citizen of Belarus.
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you check how your incomes expressed in dollars change?” depending on socio-demographic characteristics and attitude to A. Lukashenko, %
Characteristics
Yes, constantly
Sometimes
Never
Gender:
Male
39.4
41.1
15.5
Female
29.8
45.5
19.3
Age:
18-29
40.5
43.0
10.5
30-39
45.8
40.2
10.6
40-49
39.6
45.0
10.0
50-59
37.7
45.7
12.5
60+
11.9
45.3
39.3
Education:
Primary
2.2
51.6
43.0
Incomplete secondary
13.1
37.3
40.5
Secondary
33.4
47.3
15.0
Vocational
39.6
45.5
10.4
Higher
48.3
34.6
12.4
Attitude to A. Lukashenko:
Trust
21.9
47.8
23.4
Don’t trust
48.4
39.3
10.0
Only in the oldest age group (60+) and in groups with primary and incomplete secondary education we may see a significant deviation from the average value over the sample. But this doesn’t mean that retired people and people of little education are completely indifferent to dynamics of their incomes expressed in dollars. Near a half of representatives of these groups still check the changes of their incomes expressed in dollars, although they do it only from time to time.
At first glance it may seem that this purely economic question is regarded as a politically charged one by the groups of supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko. In particular, the latter check the changes of their incomes expressed in dollars 2.2 times as often as the former. However, this politicization is only apparent. In reality this is explained by the level of financial activity, which is significantly higher among opponents of the head of state.
Graph 1 data may be regarded as somewhat of an indicator of stability (or, more precisely, instability) of Belarusian economy. Let us remind you, that in March 23.1% of respondents expressed confidence in the fact that socio-economic situation in Belarus is getting better, while 33.6% think that it is getting worse. However, only 12.9% don’t fear another devaluation of ruble in the next few months.
It turns out that for a certain part of respondents there could be an improvement of socio-economic situation even under the conditions of a new devaluation. There is nothing unexpected in this contradiction, as public opinion is ambivalent by definition.
Public opinion was divided in relation to the reasons of December devaluation (Table 2). Official version (“because of Russian ruble weakening”) is the most popular one. 44.5% of respondents support it. But population’s own fault, so often and resolutely pointed by A. Lukashenko, didn’t go unnoticed (24.6%). The total is 69.1%. Thus, we may consider that the powers mostly succeeded in shifting the responsibility for devaluation.
Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “In December-January Belarusian ruble was in fact devaluated in relation to dollar by 30%. According to you, what was the reason for that?”, % (more than one answer is possible)
Variant of answer
All respondents
Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust
Don’t trust
The weakening of Russian ruble
44.5
46.1
41.4
Faulty policy of Belarusian government and the National Bank
37.4
19.4
59.3
People actively buying foreign currency
24.6
33.6
11.3
Other
7.8
9.7
6.3
DA
7.1
10.4
3.7
It is natural, that A. Lukashenko’s opponents are more prone to blame the government and the National Bank for ruble devaluation than his supporters. In their turn, A. Lukashenko’s supporters three times as often agree with the population’s fault.
In Russia this is the urban middle class that follows the dollar rate change. They are more informed, more educated, more well-to-do, more involved in the market economy and less dependent on the power. But in Belarus, with its longstanding tradition of devaluations, the circle of people, closely following dollar exchange rate, is much wider. It isn’t for nothing that during a press-conference in January 2013 A. Lukashenko noted that principal clients of currency exchange offices are retired people.