While visiting Mogilev Region at the beginning of the week and giving a press conference later, the President of Belarus has initiated to discuss and to implement the task that has excited both journalists and working class people. It has been the task to make the average salary be equal to no less than $500. In other words, an average Belarusian must earn BYN1,000 a month. And ‘to earn’ is the key word here, as no money will fall from heaven or even from local authorities. The only way to get more money is to produce and sell products in demand and of high quality.
In the times when market itself lacks money and competition is only stiffer from day to day, taking funds from the money box may seem to be a solution. But
the real way out of crisis is to look for every possibility to make your investments as profitable as possible.
Modernization is always a warrant of profit growth. For instance, this confectionary giant is planning to produce 25,000 tons of sweets this year, which is equal to 2.5 kg for every Belarusian, including newborns. Productivity growth and cost reduction is ensured by robotized production lines. A confectioner today is a man at the computer. While being produced, sweets are almost never touched by human hands.
Nina Belyayeva, operative at wafer pastry production line:
Nine ovens have been replaced by a highly productive one.
Just one new line has boosted labour productivity by 12%. That's exactly what is needed to raise salaries.
Oleg Zhidkov, Director General of the confectionary factory:
At the moment, our enterprise has a development strategy until 2020, which includes labour-saving and productivity-raising decisions, following the example of our main competitors both in Russian Federation and in European Union. In November-December, the average salary at our factory will be no less than BYN820-850.
Belarusians have already earned $500 once, and even more.
In December 2014, the average salary was about $621, but at the beginning of 2015 the sheer fall of the Russian ruble had an adverse impact on Belarusian economy.
Today, the average salary in Belarus is about $380. But there are all chances to return the standard of $500.
Pyotr Pekutsko, deputy director of History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus:
There are some sectors of Belarusian economy where the average salary is already higher than $500. These are information and communication, science and professional activity, finance and insurance.
Irina Novikova, Doctor of Economics:
Salaries depend on labour productivity. The higher the GDP, the higher our average salary. That’s why $500 is a real task for our economy.
Nowadays, according to salary rate, Belarus ranks fourth among the post-Soviet, the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) member countries.
The top countries are Russia and Kazakhstan. Though, Russian salary has only recently exceeded the level of $500. Nevertheless, one should also take into consideration the interregional gap of salary levels, though, Kazakhstan’s tenge has also suffered from devaluation. What is more, the two countries have considerable oil and gas potential. So how can Ukraine compete considering its hryvnia downfall, or Tadjikistan, where the average salary has never reached $200?
Pavel Sidoruk, journalist (Russia):
Belarusian bosses have no right to have a salary more than three times higher than their enterprise average. Unfortunately, we, Russians, do not have such a situation at home. People are often underpaid in Russia.
It was the Belarus President who brought up the topic at the meeting with Russian journalists. The main problem is that raise of salaries entails raise of cost prices.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
I have to say the following. I have mentioned here Berlin, Warsaw, Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.
If we compare the so-called social packages, we'll see that Belarusians do not live worse than other nations. We haven't just left our people alone with their problems.
Yes, it's possible to raise salaries a bit and make public services, education and public health paid. Don’t you think our people will cope with it? But they won't! They will die in poverty and we won't be able to help them, I mean the situation 'no money – no health care'. That's not the measures we are ready to take.
However prosperous European countries can be, expenses are usually as high as salaries there. For example,
Lithuanians have suffered a lot after the adoption of the Euro. The life has become no better after the raise of the average salary to about €600, as all prices have grown proportionally.
There has been even a ‘cauliflower revolution’ when Lithuanians boycotted the leading supermarket chains after the cauliflower prices reached €3.5.
Evgeny Sivaykin, Lithuanian Trade Union League secretary:
It may seem that Belarusians have minimal salaries, but here are some examples. Household costs in an old three-room flat can reach €300 in winter. If earlier Lithuanians paid €7 on average for some small purchases, now they pay €15 for the same purchases. The high migration rate only confirms the dissatisfaction of the locals.
Victor Pavlovich has launched his business 21 year ago. Since then, the average salary of a turner has risen from $50 to more than $500 at the enterprise today. The director believes that incentive to work is essential for his workers.
Victor Bortnik, director of a private enterprise:
Now we are modernizing the equipment. The productivity of labour will rise as well as the salaries. A better salary means better work efficiency.
Kirill Glebov, machine operator:
My salary depends on my work. All in all, I earn about BYN900.
This family has a budget of $500. Alexander is a bus driver, he’s a breadwinner in the family; Anna is an assistant in the kindergarten. The couple has three children, which makes their expenses quite high, not to mention the furnishing of the new flat. But Alexander and Anna believe that as long as they work hard, their welfare is real.