Session to discuss state support of families with children
Belarus will improve the quality of long-term measures to create favorable conditions for bringing up several children in a family, President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a government session held on 21 August to discuss a new mechanism of state support of families with children.
"It is a matter of national security, if you like it. If we do not have enough people, then there will be no use talking about independence,” the head of state underlined.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the existing measures of state support for families with children were systematized, and the proposals to stimulate the birth rate were formulated. Today’s meeting will discuss in detail the proposed arrangements. For example, there were 101,000 births in the country in 1995. Birth numbers in 2013 made up 118,000. The birth rate trend continues increasing this year. In H1 2014 the country welcomed 57,300 newborns, which is up 1,100 from the same period last year.
“These showings are positive but still weak,” the head of state said. In his words, the birth rate should be considerably higher in the country, and a number of issues should be addressed for this matter.
It is not a secret that the demographic situation is largely dependable on the sex-age structure of the population. Unfortunately, the number of women of the reproductive age is going down. Every possible effort should be taken to enhance the social prestige of maternity and large families in the society, the President noted.
In his words, about 70% of families in the country have only one child and this serves as a constraining factor. According to the head of state, the situation can be changed by strengthening the country’s commitment to long-term support of families with two and more children.
Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that last year he asked Sergei Rumas, as a parent with many children, to take the initiative and make proposals on the project "Big Family". They were studied in detail by the working group chaired by the head of the Presidential Administration. New proposals were developed and analyzed in the government.
The head of state stressed that the existing measures of state support for families with children were systematized, and the proposals to stimulate the birth rate were formulated.
“We are gradually abolishing unreasonable subsidies and people see it. In this regard, the money that we will save on it will be channeled to support mothers and children,” the head of state remarked.
Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the country will do whatever it needs to encourage the birth of two, three and more children”. “However, this requires resources and we should keep in mind that we can do no more than we can do. Of course, we can plan a great number of events; however our plans will depend on our budget. If we have more money, we will do even more,” Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined.
Speaking about the support of mothers, families raising children, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “Two children is a must. The birth of three, four children should be encouraged. As we keep abolishing subsidies, the money will be used for this purpose. At least, as long as I am President, this matter will not be neglected”. The head of state ordered to pay due attention to this field. He noted: “Even if we do not have any money to provide subsidized housing loans and run housing construction projects, we will give the last money we have to families with many children so that they could build housing. This is our position”.
"Our task is to develop additional measures, both for short- and long-term, to stimulate and increase the Belarusian population," the President noted.
Labor and Social Security Minister Marianna Shchetkina spoke about the existing measures to support families with children. She suggested streamlining incentives to give birth to the second and subsequent children. For example, she suggested reducing interest rates on housing loans for young families, analyzing the efficiency of childcare benefits over the past 2.5 years and amending the laws on childcare benefits taking into consideration the findings of the analysis.
Chairman of the Board of the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus Sergei Rumas spoke about possible long-term measures to stimulate the birth of the third and more children and presented the Big Family program. One of the proposals is to credit $10,000 to the deposit account of the family for the birth of the third and more children. This amount will be pegged to the hard currency and indexed annually. The project will be running for 5 years. The funds cannot be used until the child reaches 18. The money can be spent on housing improvement, education of the child, healthcare and to augment the mother’s future pension. Taking into account annual indexation, the family can expect approximately $14,000 on the account once the child reaches 18. Until then the funds can be used only in an emergency situation: complex medical assistance for any member of the family.
The source of financing is the National Development Fund, which is estimated to run at Br1.8 trillion annually. About $700 -800 million will be required for the entire period of the project. However, this project will pay back as the funds credited to the deposit account of the mother in Belarusbank will be managed by the Development Bank, which will invest them into the economy. The government proposes to start the project on 1 January 2015.
Under the project, the family can open a deposit account for $5,000 at the birth of a fourth child. The state will transfer the same amount to the family account.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the project is feasible.
“This is a good project. I think we can afford it. This should be done. Children are the most important thing. If there are no children, it means there will be no state. This is a long-term program. It is simple, understandable to all. This is a step forward, for the long-term perspective,” the President said.
“Let us analyze various ways to ramp up budget revenues. We can find additional funds. We might cut certain programs. After all, this is the number one objective,” the head of state said referring to the Big Family program.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that it is possible to raise the income tax from 12% to 13% and to use the difference to support families with children. “I do not understand who would complain about it. It is done for your child! However, if you have one child, sorry, you are out. If you want to benefit from this move, give birth to three children,” the President said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested bringing together all measures to support families with children into one law, so that each family having one child could open this document and see what it will be entitled to if it gives birth to more children.
The head of state believes that the draft law should be discussed publicly. “I am convinced that people might give us some advice. If their suggestions are acceptable financially, we will take them into consideration,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
The President also spoke about preparation for the new academic year. He told officials that orphans and children from dysfunctional families should not look disprivileged compared to other children.