President holds session to discuss pension system improvement

    Retirement age will not be raised for now. At the same time, measures will be developed to encourage Belarusians to apply for pensions later, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the session to discuss ways to improve pension benefits on 16 March.

    "Improving the pension system we discard the way Europe opted for – a higher retirement age. We cannot afford it now. We promised our people we will not do it. And the people ask us not to do it," the head of state said.

    According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus now boasts the lowest retirement age. All the other countries are thinking about raising the age, Russia for instance. There are two pensioners per every working citizen in Belarus. It is the limit although barely sustainable, the head of state said.

    The President remarked for now Belarus has no shortage of pension money. The pension fund is just sufficient for these pensions for this number of pensioners. “If the amount of money in the pension fund rises, we raise pensions, too,” the head of state said.

    “Belarusian pensions are comparatively low but the correlation of prices, services and so on, if we compare those with Russia’s, is as good. We pay [pensions] on time, we have a large social package, particularly for pensioners. But I admit that pensions have to rise,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. According to the President, since there are many pensioners in Belarus and the population increase is negative, the country cannot but keep pensions low.

    The President stressed that the government always decides in favor of increasing pensions and wages whenever possible. “Yes, our pensions are not high and leave much to be desired in some places. But our strategic line is to support pensioners every time it is possible,” the Belarusian leader said. “As for the workforce, the main thing here is labor productivity. If there is working efficiency, there are higher salaries,” the President noted.

    “No one is going to print money in order to pay wages. Otherwise we are doomed to repeat last year’s financial crisis,” the head of state said.

    The President believes it is necessary to improve the pension system in a way to encourage citizens to apply for pensions later. “We should encourage pensioners. We should give them some percentage to add to the pension if they apply for pensions later,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out it should be a voluntary decision of citizens. “We should do it without forcing people and without raising artificially or administratively the pension age. It should not be done. People should have the right to retire the way it is done now: 55 years for women and 60 years for men. We should offer an alternative,” the President said.

    The President ruled out populist decisions. “If we take steps, the steps should not worsen the financial situation. Plainly speaking, we should be able to afford the step,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    “Don’t spare money for pensioners. Pensions have to be raised. The economy will allow raising pensions two times this year just as we planned. It should be done,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.