How will Belarus look in five years? In what condition will our economy be? Will Belarus pay more attention to gender equality? Will there ever be political reform?
The Index of the Future of Belarus 2019 has been created by the Center for New Ideas to answer exactly these and many other questions.
The survey of 58 experts shows that Belarus is in decline or in a state of stagnation with regard to most of 24 indicators affecting its future.
Over the next five years, experts predict the economy will grow by 1.5% – 3%, which in practice is stagnant. The average salary in Belarus is a cultural meme and political talking point.
The struggle for “$500 for all” has lasted a very long time. Between 2019 and 2023, the average salary in Belarus is likely to be between $500-600. The wage gap between Minsk and the rest of the country is likely to grow.
Experts also believe that in the next five years, the economy will be reformed to a very minor extent. On a positive note, external debt will most likely comprise 50-70% of the GDP of Belarus.
This year, experts seem more optimistic about the dynamics of gross external debt growth than last year. A year ago, experts predicted a debt level of 70-90% of the GDP.
Also, the number of countries receiving more than 5% of Belarusian exports is likely to rise to 3-5. It is likely that Russia’s share in Belarusian export of goods will decrease to 35%-40%.
We’ll become better
Belarusian society has a very low level of mutual assistance. An insignificant part of the population (5-10%) regularly (at least once a year), while a significant part of the population sporadically (25-35%) keeps abreast of developments in society.
They donate money to solve social and community problems, spend personal time participating in community initiatives, and help strangers in difficult situations.
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Most of the population does not help strangers or participate in other forms of solidarity. In five years, the level of mutual assistance in society will either grow or stay at the same level.
As to gender equality, the state and society only partially function in accordance with its principles. In day-to-day life, there are noticeable divergences from the principles of gender equality.
Science and higher education will be down
The amount of state money spent on science clearly shows whether its economic agents see research and development as an engine of the economy.
Unfortunately, Belarus is not a country where such expenditures are high. It seems plausible that research expenditures will remain at the same low level.
It seems unlikely that the number of Belarusian universities among the top 500 will grow in the next five years. This is a less optimistic forecast than last year’s.
At the moment there is only one Belarusian University – the Belarusian State University – that made it to the top 500 in one rating. It got 354th place in the QS World University Rankings.
The quality of Belarusian higher education is now slightly lower than in neighbouring EU countries (Poland and Lithuania) and will remain here in the near future.
No changes in politics
The Belarusian authorities (including President Alexander Lukashenko) have been warming up to future transformation of the political system for several years now.
So far, these statements have not had any concrete results, so there is definite skepticism among experts about whether there will be change.
However, experts believe that the possibility of some form of reform is more likely now. The question here is whether it will strengthen the government or the parliament.
Experts also don’t see any reorganisation of the party system, electoral legislation or serious changes in civil society development.
In relations with Russia, preserving the status quo or closer rapprochement with Russia is the most likely scenario for the next five years, the survey shows.
As to corruption, expert opinion was approximately 50/50. Some thought that it would retain its current scope and prevalence, while others believed that the situation would improve.
The forecasts were based on the opinion of experts working in think tanks, international organizations, media, the private sector, civil society organizations and academic institutions.
However, these are just the main scenarios, in reality, there are many more options for the Belarusian future.