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Poverty line in Belarus


Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, Ambassador

Belarusians have stopped receiving official data from Belstat (Statistics Committee) on many items, and when some information becomes available, they firmly believe it to be deceptive, serving some undisclosed purpose of the Lukashenko regime. This has happened once again.

Belstat recently published data indicating a decrease in the number of financially disadvantaged Belarusians in 2023. According to their report, 3.5% of the population, which amounts to 320 thousand Belarusians, live below the poverty line in Belarus. However, this is yet another manipulation and lie perpetuated by the Lukashenko regime.

Now, let's examine why and how Belstat manipulates the data. 

belstat manipulates data on poverty of Belarusians
Source: belmarket.by

The poverty line in Belarus has been called the “level of low financial well-being of the population” and it has been determined quarterly based on the proportion of residents with an average per capita income below the subsistence level. The subsistence budget is calculated as the cost of a minimum set of food products, goods, services, and mandatory payments necessary to meet a person's basic living needs. As of November 1, the average subsistence budget in Belarus is 367.79 rubles (approximately $116). This amount is extremely meager for basic survival.

The main manipulation by the regime lies in their own devised scheme for determining the “level of low financial well-being of the population”, disregarding the universally accepted global mechanism used by the World Bank to determine poverty in their reports. The World Bank methodology utilizes gross national income per capita to assess poverty levels in countries. Based on this indicator, countries are divided into three groups:

  1. Countries with a "low" level of gross national income per capita —  up to $1,135 per year. For residents of such countries like North Korea, Yemen, Ethiopia, etc., the threshold for extreme poverty is defined as a monthly per capita income below $64.5.

  2. Countries with "below average" gross national income per capita —  ranging from $1,136 to $4,465 per capita. For residents of countries like India, Egypt, Vietnam, Tunisia, etc., the threshold for extreme poverty is a monthly per capita income below $109.5.

  3. Countries with "above average" gross national income per capita — ranging from $4,466 to $13,845 per capita, and countries with "high" gross national income per capita — exceeding $13,846 per capita. For residents of such countries, the threshold for extreme poverty is defined as a monthly per capita income below $205.5 or 649 Belarusian rubles.

Since 2006, Belarus has been classified as a country with an "above average" level of national income per capita. Consequently, the threshold for extreme poverty for a resident of Belarus is an income below $205.5 per month or below 649 Belarusian rubles. If a family of three has a monthly income less than 1947 rubles ($616), they are considered below the poverty line in Belarus. Because the higher the level of gross domestic product in the country is (produced by citizens of Belarus, by the way), the more expensive goods and services will be.

Belstat's report claims that only 320 thousand Belarusians, or 3.5%, have an income below 367 rubles per month and are considered below the poverty line. They also state that this number decreased by 40 thousand in 2023.

Why does Belstat significantly reduce the number of Belarusians living below the poverty line?

Belarusians below the poverty line
Source: vsemirnyjbank.org

Firstly, to showcase a lower percentage of residents below the poverty line compared to countries in the same group with "above average" gross national income per capita.

For instance, Italy had a poverty level of 9.7%, Bulgaria — 22.9%, Austria — 14%, Hungary — 12%, Belgium — 13%, and even Russia, a partner in military aggression against Ukraine and a partner in the formation of the union state, had a poverty level of 10.5%. Each country strives to realistically reduce the percentage of poverty in its population, but Lukashenko chooses deception and manipulation.

Secondly, it is more convenient to project an image of prosperous living conditions for Belarusians within the concentration camp constructed by the Lukashenko regime. They aim to deceive Belarusians into believing that everyone is content with their standard of living, and all that remains is to pray for the dictator and work silently and practically for free, contributing to the same gross national income that Lukashenko and his family will exploit. They are afraid to reveal the true extent of poverty in Belarus and the potential backlash it may generate. The number of Belarusians living in extreme poverty is undoubtedly significant. Even based on conservative estimates using the World Bank methodology, approximately 2.5 million people, or 27% of the population, live below the poverty line. This means that every fourth Belarusian, according to Belstat's own data, has a monthly per capita disposable income below 649 rubles.

While Belarusians possess the ability to save, survive, and be content with little under the slogan "if only there is no war," these circumstances are only temporary.

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