MINSK, 21 September (BelTA) – Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a meeting with the leadership of the Council of Ministers to discuss a number of social issues on 21 September, BelTA has learned.
The head of state got familiar with several draft decrees regarding support to large families, pension system, housing construction, civic and youth initiatives.
The head of state noted that the relevant issues require additional information and public discussion. “Especially since they are sensitive for both the population and the budget. Therefore, today we will consider and make decisions and find a balance between these needs and diverse interests. The draft documents cover a large block of social issues. They include support to large families, development of the pension system, housing construction, and also issues related to the implementation of civic and youth initiatives,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
On demography and family capital
Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that despite the changed economic conditions, it is extremely important not to let the birth rate go down. “You know my principled position — the country and the nation develop when families raise at least three children. Large families are our main demographic benchmark. On the other hand, it is hard and responsible work and the state does its best to ensure that having many children become a norm for our society,” the president said.
In his words, the country has a powerful package of social measures which includes benefits for birth and upbringing of children, financial assistance for housing construction, benefits in education and healthcare, tax, pension and employment. For instance, a total of Br4.7 billion was spent on these measures in 2020. At least Br5 billion will be spent for these purposes this year.
“We can responsibly say that support of large families is a social brand of our state, its calling card,” stressed the Belarusian leader.
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that a family capital program was launched in 2015. The program has been used so far by more than 100,000 families with many children. “Life shows that we have chosen the right path. The number of large families is growing. This number has almost doubled over the past 10 years. Today there are over 115,000 large families in the country. The program is effective. This means we should develop it further,” the president said.
The Belarusian leader however raised the question of how justified and timely it is to expand the limits of early use of the family capital. “There is no need to spend that money ahead of time. There should be other sources for other purposes. Long-term support should not be traded away for immediate needs. Here I would like to hear additional arguments of the program developers on the matter,” said the head of state.
On state support for housing construction
Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that housing is the most urgent need of people and it is necessary to make certain adjustments to the procedure and conditions of providing state support to citizens in the construction and purchase of housing.
“Even in this difficult time we need to take additional measures to protect the interests of large families and provide them with financial assistance for housing until their children turn 23 years old [earlier, it was until 18 years],” said the head of state.
Plans are also in place to increase the amount of state support for large families living in rural areas, in which at least one spouse is working in rural areas.
In addition, to encourage people to move to rural areas, it has been proposed to enable those in need of better housing conditions from regional centers and Minsk to build state-supported housing in settlements with a population of up to 20,000 people.
“In the current economic situation every ruble counts. Any state support must be justified. That is why I want to hear how well-calculated these proposals are,” said the president.
On the development of the pension system
The participants of the meeting also discussed the approaches proposed by the government to the further development of the pension system. “We increase pension payments every time we have this financial opportunity, being well aware that for the majority of the elderly it is the main source of income. There are over 2.5 million pensioners in Belarus (about 510,000 of them still work). Pension payments exceed Br15 billion and make up 30% of total budget expenditures,” the head of state said.
“An additional voluntary contribution pension plan as an opportunity for people to improve their income in old age, was discussed at the 6th Belarusian People’s Congress. Proposals on approaches to solving this problem have already been worked out,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
He asked the participants of the meeting to report on the worked-out approaches and what should be done to widely implement such a program in Belarus.
On civic and youth initiatives
The president suggested considering a new area of work — a mechanism for implementing civic and youth initiatives. “Such questions, especially at meetings in student groups, are regularly raised. The idea is good, and there are many areas of such work in society. This can be the participation of citizens in the improvement of their cities and towns, in the repair of monuments and obelisks. Young people can implement projects related to patriotic, intellectual, spiritual and physical education,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
According to him, there is a need to develop systematic work. “This is our ideological vector, too. Such work should be constantly supported at the level of the Council of Ministers, Parliament and especially at the level of local executive and administrative bodies. We need to be absolutely clear about how the projects will be selected, who will get the funds and how their distribution and use will be monitored,” the president said.
He asked the Council of Ministers to provide a reasoned position of the Government on all the above-mentioned issues, to ensure monitoring of the implementation of the decisions taken at the meeting, to provide high quality and broad information coverage of the discussed topics.