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'Social dependency' law in Belarus proves effectiveness?

A quarter of a century has passed since the collapse of the USSR. The Viskuli agreement was signed December 8, 1991. And we will not leave this topic without attention today either. But first, let me remind you that in the USSR, there was an article of the Criminal Code for social parasitism. People call parasites those who don't work. The state defines this phenomenon as social dependency.

In April 2015, the Belarus President signed Decree Number 3 in order to induce a fee for those who don't pay taxes but use social benefits and security funded by other working people. Do they use free medicine? Do they send their children to school for free? Do they enjoy safety in the streets? Then please support this "communism" with a fee.

The system started working, but it affected even those who cannot work involuntarily. The mechanism required fine tuning and adjustment. To this end, President Lukashenko held a meeting and our correspondent Yana Shipko followed the story.

Valentina gets up early in the morning. Her employment record book does not contain any records but her every day is busy. She has her own small farm with cows, rabbits, turkeys, chickens and pigs. The family gets food mainly from own garden. Officially, they are not farmers, but they provide for their family with their own labor. Possession of land for farming is a compelling reason for local authorities for tax exemption.

Valentina Krazuyko:
We work on this land. We get benefits from it. And those who do not want to work are, of course, parasites. We work on this land and why can't they? Physicians work, they treat us. They should receive a salary, but what are sources?

The decree on social dependency intended to neutralize injustice when some work and pay taxes and some only use social benefits.

More than 70,000 Belarusians have already received notices in which they are asked to pay the fee.

Of these, one in five was released from duty. Most of those detected as 'social dependent' by tax authorities simply work or study abroad or raise children who are under 7. This means such people simply need to send relevant proof to tax authorities and be exempt from the fee.

Tatiana Rodina, head of taxation control department, Minsk tax inspectorate:
Some people call voluntarily and tell us about those who don't work. We check such information.

There are of course some drawbacks of this law. There have been a few cases when notices were sent by mistake to mothers who raise kids or even to persons who already passed away. The relevant tax database is being created from scratch. Tax authorities try to compare data they get with up-to-date information. The monitoring involves 30 government agencies and more than 80,000 organizations. At the time of the adoption of the decree, there were about 400,000 unemployed people in Belarus, according to estimates. The decree has proved its effectiveness in general.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
I am disturbed not by the fact that these people come to health institutions and use free benefits. I am the most worried about people's reaction to idlers. I remember from Soviet times how it was when a person did not do anything while others around worked and sweated. I know how workers react to that. Those who are able to work must work.
The performers of the decree need to work almost individually with every person. We must avoid insulting cases when we call people parasites without examining the circumstances of their life.

Natalia Kochanova, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus:
Anything can happen in life. There could be an accident, someone may be in hospital, someone can't work for objective reasons. Therefore, local authorities were granted such a right. I think that is a very good initiative and it will allow us to apply the decree to our citizens correctly.

For now, 9,500 people have already paid the tax (about $180).

Meanwhile, employment centers last year experienced an influx of those wanting to be registered as unemployed in order not to pay the tax and find a job.

Tamara Kurgan, head of an inter-district department of employment:
They search for jobs, some are more active, some are less active.

Valery Ulantsev, unemployed:
Everyone should make a contribution, after all.

Valery has been hunting the desired job for half a year. However, the labor market has vacancies, on average one position for each unemployed.

Belarus' innovation is closely watched by neighbors. Kazakhstan and Russia are mulling similar initiatives.

Russians have even calculated that thanks to fees from social dependents it will become possible to fill a hole in the pension fund.

Oleg Ilyin, director of the Strategic and Economic Development Agency:
Such a tax would be an incentive. Part of the unemployed will be legalized.

Deadline for tax payment is 20 February 2017. Those who did not work for over 180 days during 2016 will receive relevant notices in 2017.

'Social dependency' law in Belarus proves effectiveness?