Research: What Belarusian society thinks on reforms

Any reform brings about a disruption in the system of checks and balances, winners and losers. Therefore, it is the (un)willingness of society to endure the difficulties associated with reforms that determines the tactics chosen by reformers, namely, the choice of the pace and depth of reforms.

As part of the REFORUM  project, BISS conducted a social survey on reforms . The main objectives of the study were to identify the general attitude of the Belarusians to reforms and determine the priority areas for reforms.

Key findings of the study:

-  The Belarusians believe that reforms are necessary, to a varying degree, — 75.6% of the population says so. The share of those ready to endure the negative consequences of reforms is 51.1%. This point to the positive perception of reforms as a whole: the population has no consistently negative image of reforms, which could have been formed under the influence of Russian or CEE reforms.

- The Belarusians are ready to endure a decrease in living standards brought about by reforms for five to seven years for “pragmatic” (future of their children, their own well-being in the future) and “patriotic” (a strong, self-sufficient and independent Belarus) reasons. Integration projects are not perceived as sufficiently valuable to put up with the aftermath of reforms.

- According to a considerable portion of the population, reforms in Belarus should aim at increasing state influence in various sectors (43% support an increase in state influence, and 33% want the influence of the state to weaken). However, many citizens have no formed opinion, as 23.7% of the respondents were undecided. The vision of potential reforms is rather vague, and there is room for shaping public opinion on this matter. Most of the respondents believe that as a result of reforms Belarus should build a political, social and economic system similar to that Swedish.

-  The priority sector of public life for reforms is the healthcare system. Essential measures that should be incorporated in the reform include arrangements to improve the quality of medical services in rural areas, increase in the salary level of health professionals and introduction of insurance medicine with the simultaneous preservation of the basic package of free of charge services.

-  The Belarusians mostly rely on the government and governmental organizations for the development of reforms. However, the majority is unwilling to see the government as the sole developer of reforms, as more than half of the respondents speak about the need for all stakeholders to join efforts, i.e. involve international organizations, independent think tanks and civil society entities in the development of reforms.

-  As for the assistance in implementing structural reforms, Belarusian citizens pin hopes primarily on Russia, regarding it as the most probable source of financial support. Further, the Belarusians do not see other countries or international organizations as partners in putting in practice some of the much needed reforms. 

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