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Life in Transition: Belarus

Key findings (%, weighted)

Belarus Average Transition region Average Western Europe
Satisfied with life 51 43 72
Trust in others 42 34 42
Perceive less corruption than four years ago 29 21 9
Concerned about climate change 56 54 54
Support both market economy and democracy 40 34 42
Households affected by the crisis 27 49 31

Impact of the crisis

  • As in other countries largely insulated from world economic trends, the global economic crisis has not had a significant impact on livelihoods in Belarus. Only about one-quarter of respondents report that their house-holds have been adversely affected (which is well below the average for the transition region as a whole). The impact of the crisis has been stronger among the lower-income and middle-aged sections of the population.

Life satisfaction

  • While the level of life satisfaction has dropped significantly (by almost 15 points to about 50 per cent), it re-mains above the transition average. Life satisfaction has dropped almost uniformly across age and income brackets, but more so among young and middle-aged people. It is highest among the upper-income sections of the population.

    About three-fifths of respondents believe that future generations will have a better life than themselves, which represents a drop of around 10 percentage points since 2006. Despite this decline, optimism in a better future remains well above the average for the transition region as a whole. Levels of optimism have especially fallen among the younger and lower-income groups.

Attitudes towards democracy and market economy

  • Almost 40 per cent of respondents prefer a combination of democracy and a market economy, a much higher proportion than those who register indifference to the system under which they live (about 15 per cent) or those who prefer any other combination of economic and political regime. Respondents would also exchange some political liberties to live in a country with high economic growth. More than one-half think that their country is characterised both by limited political rights and weak growth.

    Despite the high level of trust in their institutions, many respondents think that some basic democratic institutions are missing. Most believe that there is peace and stability in their country, as well as freedom to travel abroad. However, relatively few think that a strong opposition, a free and independent media or the right to free speech are present in the country.

Generalised and institutional trust

  • The level of trust in people has changed little since 2006.

    42 per cent of respondents think that people can generally be trusted, an increase of only two percentage points since 2006. The middle- and lower-income sections of the population registered hardly any change in their trust levels. However, only around 15 per cent of Belarusians believe that if they were to lose their wallet in their neighbourhood it is likely to be returned. This is a rather low level of real-life trust compared to other transition countries with a similar level of generalised trust and trust in neighbours.

    Roughly one-half of respondents think that public institutions can be trusted. The armed forces, police, presidency and courts are the most trusted public institutions. The level trust in the parliament, despite falling mildly, remains one of the highest in the transition region. In addition, about one-half of respondents trust banks and the financial institutions, which is a much higher percentage compared to the western European comparator countries. This probably reflects the milder impact of the global economic crisis on Belarus and the relative insulation of its banking and financial system.

Corruption perception

  • Perceived corruption has increased since 2006. The percentage of respondents who think that the incidence of irregular payments across the public sector has risen, particularly in respect of the traffic police and public education. Corruption in the public health system is perceived as endemic. Only 16 per cent of respondents think that government officials exacting payment when exercising their duties is acceptable.

Priorities for government spending

  • More than 40 per cent of respondents think that additional expenditure on health care should be the first prior-ity (slightly higher than the average for the western European comparator countries). A significant proportion would also prefer additional spending on education and housing. Belarusians are also quite egalitarian – about 30 per cent think that incomes should be more equitable.

Full report

  • The Life in Transition Survey provides vivid evidence of precisely how lives have been affected by the global economic crisis and its aftermath.

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