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To Be, or Not to Be… in Labor?

Pavel Latushka: Deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the NAM, Ambassador

That is the question. In the meantime, let's discuss how the so-called state is attempting to increase the birth rate in our country.

Let's begin with the fact that not only the dictator himself and the omnipresent Natalya Kachanova, but also the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reportedly have prepared changes to the legislation aimed at introducing administrative (for now) penalties for "LGBT and childfree propaganda" – with fines of up to 200 basic units, approximately 7.5 thousand rubles.

According to the regime, it is precisely this kind of "propaganda" that undermines the birth rate in the country and contributes to the growing demographic crisis. They have identified the culprits and devised a punishment. They expect a baby boom and five-year-olds in four years. It is also advisable to immediately populate the countryside.

Now, let's examine the reality.

In 2024, assistance to families raising children will decrease by 10.9%, amounting to only 382.52 million rubles. It's worth noting that Lukashenko has previously emphasized that a family should have at least two or three children. Remember when he said, "the third child is mine and a little bit yours"? According to him, it is necessary to give birth to 3-4-5 children.

As early as March this year, the mustachioed populist called for a reconsideration of the approach to supporting large families:

"Listen, we start paying for the first child, for the second, for the third. I'm not even saying what a disgrace this is. People were poorer in their time, they walked around as beggars, there was nothing to eat or clothing. I remember this, especially in the village. And no one paid them for the first, second, third, or fifth child."

He added:

"I will ask the government and governors to look into this issue. We need to move away from handing out these little bonuses."

In October, he raised this issue again, stating that the system of supporting large families should change, although he himself doesn't know what kind of system it will be. But hey, just go ahead and give birth. Otherwise, they'll label you as "gay childfree" and fine you, right? Yes, such a "family support system" would be very much in line with Lukashenko's spirit.

What is happening in Belarus at the same time?

Those who disagree with the regime's policies are repressed, imprisoned, and forced to leave the country. Many individuals choose to leave voluntarily, unwilling to live in such a state and expose themselves to risks. Furthermore, due to the economic situation that Lukashenko has exacerbated, many are compelled to travel abroad to earn a living. And what does the regime do? It does everything in its power to make leaving difficult. People are detained at visa centers right when they are receiving visas. They are labeled as "parasites." In fact, individuals can now be added to the "parasite" database after being absent from the country for just 30 days.

And that's not all – being included in this database comes with consequences such as having to pay 100% for electricity and media, among other hardships. It is worth reminding you that since 2022, there has been active discussion about depriving "parasites" of the right to free healthcare.

So, what should parents with many children do in such conditions? In Belarus, raising and supporting even one child is quite challenging. Instead of receiving state assistance, Belarusians face further obstacles to earning money and supporting their families.

However, these are not the only reasons why Belarusians today are increasingly reluctant to have children.

How many healthcare workers have recently left Belarus to escape repression and poverty? The shortage of qualified personnel, and indeed any personnel, is already felt by every Belarusian in clinics and hospitals. Given the state of the healthcare system, can anyone be motivated to give birth? Yes, it may seem trivial, but it can also be life-threatening.

What is happening in education? There is also a catastrophic shortage of professional personnel due to ideological purges and ridiculously low salaries. However, there is an abundance of propaganda that poisons the minds of children. Which parent would want their child to experience daily indoctrination instead of receiving a proper education?

And what about higher education and the planned innovations in universities? Even paid employees are subject to mandatory service assignments, with an increase in service time for "state employees" to 5-7 years. It is disheartening to see Belarusians dreaming of "serfdom" for their children.

Meanwhile, in 2024, only half the amount of money allocated to education and healthcare will be allocated to the security forces and the military. Health receives 2.5 billion, education less than 1.9 billion, while the security forces receive 4.7 billion and the military 3.6 billion. Are you considering having a baby?

Finding a place to live is another challenge. Try building an apartment on a Belarusian salary. Have you managed to do that? Well, then you have to pay taxes, even for your first apartment. If you managed to buy a car, you also have to pay taxes. It seems like being successful comes with penalties. They call this a "social state," in case someone doesn't understand.

Don't agree with all this chaos? Then expect visits from the security forces or the same guardianship authorities, which have already completely merged with the repressive machine. However, the majority of people in Belarus disagree with the regime and its policies.

This means that anyone who has children runs the risk of losing them due to the efforts of either the guardianship authorities or the security forces. After all, you can't raise children from behind bars. And today, you can end up behind bars for the smallest reasons, such as a carelessly spoken word or a comment left on a social network.

There are arrests and detentions occurring every single day. By 2023, there will likely be no one left in the country whose acquaintances, neighbors, or loved ones have not experienced repression, searches, administrative detention, or imprisonment.

Perhaps behind all this darkness, we fail to see any great achievements of the regime. Maybe the regime, when not engaged in violence and intimidation against Belarusians, is building new industries, creating jobs, and improving living conditions?

Well, yes. There's the battery plant in Brest, which is detrimental to the health of Brest residents. The pulp mill in Svetlogorsk poisons the air with its emissions. The Belarusian nuclear power plant, constructed with numerous violations and incidents, has failed to provide Belarusians with affordable electricity, but has only burdened the budget - that is, the people - with substantial debts from Russian loans. And then Lukashenko claims that it is necessary to build a second one.

In the capital, they still make promises of the system of clean artesian water running throughout the city. However, these conversations have not progressed beyond mere populism. These are just a few examples. Feel free to share other examples from your cities and towns in the comments, if it is safe for you to do so.

How many Belarusians have died from Covid, a virus that supposedly did not exist in our country? The statistics are concealed. However, we witnessed everything in 2019 and 2020. We saw the funeral homes operating at full capacity, and how cemeteries were rapidly filled with fresh graves. We know what happened, even if we have yet to fully comprehend the scale that is deliberately concealed from us, just like any other significant statistic.

So, are Belarusians encouraged to have children? Is this the approach?

How many people have left the country to escape the darkness of the dictatorship? Hundreds of thousands, perhaps even half a million. But the war against his own people was not enough for Lukashenko; he also became involved in the war against Ukraine. He introduced Russian nuclear weapons. He put the country on the world map, so to speak.

That's all you need to know about the conditions created in Belarus for families, for people, and their children. So, to be, or not to be… in labor? That is the question.

I will answer it. We need to put an end to the Lukashenko regime, which is literally destroying our country and its future. This turning point will become a catalyst for growth in demographics, economics, and all aspects of life. A life that we and our children deserve.


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