Tax revolt in Belarus: 90% billed for Lukashenka’s vagrants tax refuse to pay

Anti-government protest in Belarus, February 23, 2017 (Image: belprauda.org)

Anti-government protest in Belarus, February 23, 2017 (Image: belprauda.org) 

2017/02/24 - 06:08 • Analysis & Opinion, Belarus, Politics

Only 51,600 of the more than 470,000 Belarusians – roughly five percent of the country’s population – who have been billed for Minsk’s new vagrants tax have refused to pay, an indication of just how angry the Belarusian people are at this recrudescence of a Soviet practice and how much danger Alyaksandr Lukashenka is now in.

Some of them have appealed to the courts, but so far, Lukashenka’s judiciary has turned them down arguing they do not have standing to sue. But as Gennady Fedynich, the head of the Belarusian Radio and Electronics Industry Union, points out, no one has the right to prevent suits against the tax authorities.

His union is helping those the government seeks to extract the vagrants tax from to sue because it recognizes that this Lukashenka action has become “the last drop which overfilled the cup of people’s patience” given that it came on the heels of an increase in retirement age, increases in communal services rates, and problems with various industries.

The vagrants decree simply “eclipsed” all these other problems because it “touched a significant part of the population” and people have gone into the streets as a group rather than as individuals, Fedynich says. If the regime were smart, it would suspend the decree “for an indefinite period.”

Given how angry people are and how they feel they have found their collective voice via the demonstrations, the union leader continues, any further “tightening of the screws” could have unpredictable consequences. But one thing is now clear, no one is willing to go back where they were even a month ago.

The government isn’t doing anything to help the population, and its propagandist claims fall flat when people know the truth. An official in Brest oblast said that 13,000 people there had been freed from paying the vagrants tax; but then it turned out, Fedynich says, that “more than 12,000” of these work abroad and thus weren’t subject to it to begin with.

Belarusian commentator Svetlana Metelkina, writing in the opposition paper Salidarnasts concurred. She argues that there is “one hero” in the current dramatic confrontation between the Belarusian people and Lukashenka — the wallets people keep their money in and can use to measure reality against his promises.

For all groups in the population, “our wallets are the most important indicator of the capabilities of the Belarusian economic model! The basic measure of the correctness of the course that has been chosen! And no matter how much Lukashenka makes fabulous promises, our wallets allow us to understand that these are [nothing but] fairy tales.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dagwood Bumstead

    So far the protests seem to be purely social if the photo is anything to go by- there’s only one white-red-white flag (barely) visible at the extreme left of the pic, plus what seems to be one in the centre, just to the right of the red-green flags. But if many more appear Lukashenko should start getting really worried, as they probably would indicate that the protests are turning political as well as social.
    If Luka’s smart he will repeal the vagrant tax NOW, not just suspend it. But will he, or is he determined to press ahead with the tax, and start building at Kurapaty to boot?

  • zorbatheturk

    Tax the oligarchs. They are the only ones who have any money.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      I’m not sure whether there actually ARE any Belarusian oligarchs. We’ve heard of the Ukrainian oligarchs- Akhmetov, Boiko, Firtash, Pinchuk and Co- and those in Dwarfstan- Abramovich being the best-known- but I’ve never heard of any Belarusian oligarchs. I suspect that all money in Belarus, if any, is concentrated in the hands of Lukashenko and a few of his inner circle.
      As far as I know little, if anything, was ever privatised in Belarus and the important companies remain in state hands.

      • zorbatheturk

        OK. Tax THE oligarch: LukaSTENCHko.

  • Mephisto

    with a little luck, we will get a “maidan” in Belarus – a nightmare scenario for Putin.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      It could be a nightmare scenario for Belarus as well. If a Minsk Maidan were to occur the dwarf will almost certainly send in his “little green men” supported by tanks either to prop up Luka or (more likely) to supplant him with a Belarusian puppet who will do exactly what the dwarf orders him to. However, in the event of the dwarf barging in I think he will most probably simply declare Belarus annexed and “returned to the happy fold of Dwarfstanian Brothers”, ending Belarus as a sovereign state and making it a region of Dwarfstan.

      • MichaelA

        where will he get little green men and tanks?
        his good contract troops are in ukraine or syria
        so are his good tanks
        he assumed ukrainians would just roll over
        how is that working for him?

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          The dwarf has at least 60,000 troops in the Crimea twiddling their thumbs. He can easily withdraw half of them temporarily. He can also temporarily withdraw troops from other parts of Dwarfstan- marines from the Northern, Baltic and Pacific Fleets for instance, even units sitting on the Dwarfstanian-Ukrainian border. He has both the soldiers, er, little green men, and the tanks to invade Belarus should he so choose.It also depends on how desperate he is.
          I’m not convinced that Belarusians would actively resist Dwarfstanian forces should they invade, Lukashenko’s claims notwithstanding.

          • MichaelA

            then why hasnt he done this ages ago?