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The lights are off for the pension reform
12.09.2011
The Conference on the 20th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Declaration of Independence of Belarus took place yesterday, September 11. The event was organized by the “People’s Program” campaign and held at Palace of Culture of the Tractor Factory. The Belarusian authorities clearly demonstrated their willingness to have a dialogue with the civic society although none of the state officials attended the event...

It happened at the end of the Conference. Considering the complicated situation in the country and pressing topics of the discussions, it took a while for the participants to discuss the problems of today. It is quite natural that the Conference lasted much longer than it was planned. Nevertheless, Yuri Gubarevich, the organizer of the event, announced before the last two presentations that the rent issue was solved and the Conference could keep going. By the way, it was before the presentation by Our Generation’s Leader Tatiana Zelko, who raised the problem of pension system reform. But either the electrician didn’t want to work overtime, or the authorities decided that the proclaimed dialogue is over before it had started – the lights went off in the hall and the microphones were turned off in the middle of the presentation. Hence, Tatiana Zelko finished her report in the darkness and without a microphone.
Thus, we publish here the full version of the report:
- State officials responsible for providing pensions for the elderly Belarusians are always saying that “the Belarusian pension system is the best and the most social in the world”. Unfortunately, they never mention, what criteria and what countries they use for comparison. But I would be glad to find indications, however illusory they are, that our pension system is at least somewhat social… Let’s try to do it together. It’s reasonable to look for the indications in the LawOn Pension System. However even a quick look at the document comprised of 94 Articles and 11 Sections is enough to notice that it is a not a social economy but bureaucratic mockery at Belarusian citizens. To calculate one’s retirement pension, one should start calculating it during the first year of the university – and will be done exactly by the retirement time! It is hard to think of a more bureaucratic and complicated procedure! And this tome misses the true social guarantees of the pension provision – the pension indexation with respect to the economic prosperity of the country. The size of our pension depends exclusively on the will of one person – the head of the state who is still fully confident that our economy is in good shape. However, taking into account the price rise, it would be the right time to calculate the pension with respect to the price of Validol or liquid ammonia as many elderly people indeed sicken when they see the number of zeroes on the price tags. Employed pensioners also talk quite a lot about the social elements of our pension system. But to be honest, few of their thoughts would pass the censorship.The thing is that the pension for the employed pensioners is calculated with the minimum index of 1.3. There are exceptions from this rule, though: retirees from the military, Ministry of Internal Affairs and KGB as well as former employees of state administration – in fact, those who mostly work not for the prosperity of the country but for the regime stability. At the same time, the size of their pension is initially several times higher than a regular one… That’s the origin of a classical example of the Belarusian social system: the income of a university professor who has been working for 50 years equals the income of a sergeant who’s been functioning as a doorkeeper at the university. And I won’t talk here about their contributions to the development of the country… But maybe we are looking for something different? Maybe, socially oriented development of the country should be estimated not by the legislature and not by the attitude towards people? Maybe, social orientation should be looked for in the buildings? We like it so much, to build the so called “social objects”… So let’s look for the social elements in the nursing homes for elderly people! I’m afraid, that would be just another great failure. Sure, I do understand that various sports facilities are much more important for the society than retirement homes but … is it indeed necessary to neglect so deeply our own elderly people who devoted their entire lives to building our country so that at the old age they would have to face the surprise in the form of a peaceful concentration camp?
Thousands of pensioners die way before they get to the so called social buildings, 58 per cent of which require capital repairs (and that’s just the official statistics)… But all these issues could be solved without large capital investments. The only thing needed is to change the attitude towards the elderly and the old age… And with all that in mind, our country still contrives to discuss the global problems that deal with pension reforms. I mean the rise of the retirement age. However, we should indeed recognize that it is a compulsory step, without which our pension system would hardly be able to survive for purely economic reasons. But we have all the reasons to think that the authorities will make it in their regular way – incoherently and irresponsibly. And when the retirement age is not raised in the long-run our pension system will be degrading slowly and quietly and the abrupt decision would simply crash our system. It is obvious that the retirement age cannot equal the average life span. No single person, if not insane, will give away 30 per cent of their income for obscure purposes and to unclear recipients… In the meanwhile, all these issues could be solved quite easily. All that is needed is to be more open and honest! Our system obviously lacks transparency, honesty, and competition. I wouldn’t be making this report if our country had an absolutely transparent pension fund where everyone would be able to check the amount of money and the way it is distributed. People wouldn’t be getting their salaries in envelopes if everyone would know clearly at any time what pension will they have when they get a certain salary and have a certain record of service. The pension system should be as clear and simple as inevitable our old age is! And finally, our Ministry of social protection would work much more efficiently if there were competition in the country. At least, it would be definitely well-timed when it comes to opening private retirement homes and developing the retirement insurance business. The pension system in Belarus is a typical case of what should not be done during the transition period. Here, the Belarusian authorities contrived to take the most negative elements of the Soviet regime. And it is true with regard to absolutely all the aspects of the Belarusian pension policy.

TatsianaZelko comments on the situation:
--The authorities have clearly demonstrated how they are going to have the dialogue with the civic society and opposition – by means of the circuit breaker. I mean that they have no intentions to stand the critics and to convince their opponents of something. I feel sincerely sorry for the people who believed that the real dialogue with our authorities is feasible. As the campaign “People’s Program” perfectly fits the criteria beloved by our establishment – everything is done indeed in a constructive way and with love for Belarus. But, maybe, the authorities decided to help me and clearly demonstrated their attitude towards the pensioners: if something is wrong we’ll switch off the light!


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