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Lukashenko holds session to discuss demographic situation, family support

MINSK (BelTA) – Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is holding a session to discuss the demographic situation and the support of families with children on 19 February, BelTA has learned.

According to Alexander Lukashenko, it is essential not only to introduce new mechanisms but also to improve the system in general when considering family support measures. “We have already introduced so many measures, no other country takes so many measures to support families with children. If I am not mistaken, we have 11 different allowances. I have read the analysis of the situation in other countries: for example, Germany has very strong allowances, while the birth rate is virtually the same as in Belarus. The birth rate is the same in countries with less abundant measures of family support,” the president said.

In his opinion, it is essential to scrutinize the system of family support as such and, perhaps, to redistribute funds. “Probably, we need to provide stronger support somewhere, while inefficient mechanisms should be removed. For example, if we make a balanced decision concerning the provision of housing to families with many children, of course, it will be a stimulus. Housing means a lot for families. But when you send people to health resorts and give them three dollars you are just wasting funds. Therefore, we need to think about all that,” the head of state stressed.

“As far as the demographic security is concerned, we are facing the same problems as the majority of countries all over the world. These are lower birth rate and bigger natural population decline. If we do not take preventive measures, such trends as population decrease and aging, as specialists predict, will become event stronger by 2040,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

The president remarked that exceptional measures have been taken to support families with kids. Among them are a paid three-year leave for childcare, preferential loans for families with many children and a family capital program. “These are significant measures, and they are working. We need to think about it. We should promote efficient measures and get rid of inefficient ones. People will get more as a result,” the head of state remarked.

At the same time, the head of state asked about the efficiency of these measures. He also wondered if they help increase birth rate. “Population growth and a higher performance potential are national security issues, and they are as crucial for us as for other countries,” the president said.

The head of state also said that he is still informed about certain drawbacks in the system to provide housing to families with many children. The president gave an instruction to solve this issue by 2021 at the recent government conference on construction.

The state program “Health of the nation and demographic security of the Republic of Belarus” is in force from 2016 to 2020. It envisages the creation of conditions for the improvement of people's health, development and promotion of family values, raising the prestige of parenthood, better population replacement, death rate reduction, higher life expectancy, provision of high-quality and affordable healthcare services, optimization of migration processes.

The president asked about the progress in the implementation of this program. He wanted to know if it helped reduce death rate. “I am aware of the progress in the implementation of the program as I have deeply analyzed the issue. We are now speaking a lot about healthy lifestyles in the government, particularly, at the level of the vice premier who is in charge of the matter, at the level of the head of the Belarus President Administration and other civil servants… I will warn you once again: if you fail to fulfill any of my instructions you will be fired immediately,” Alexander Lukashenko said. “I also instructed the healthcare minister to take comprehensive measures to reduce death rate. I want to know that is being done in this field.”

According to the head of state, in the coming years it is necessary to work out and implement efficient measures to increase birth rate in Belarus. In his words, it is also important to focus on the formation of a positive attitude to maternity and family values in the society. “I hope that the participants of the meeting will engage in an active discussion and put forward proposals on the ways to improve the demographic situation. No reports for the sake of reports. These issues should have been considered in the government before the meeting with the president,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

Labor and Social Security Minister Irina Kostevich said at the meeting that a depopulation stage began in Belarus in 1993. The country has not reproduced its population since 1978 when the coefficient of simple reproduction fell below the threshold value. “Measures that were taken by the state helped stabilize the demographic situation to a certain extent since 2010. However, this trend is not sustainable enough, and the results of the past two years prove it. The birth rate is declining,” she said.

About 95,000 children were born in Belarus in 2018, down 8% from 2017. Mortality rate remains rather high: almost 200,000 people died in the country last year, this number increased by 600 as against 2017. The natural population decline increase by 9,000 to 25,000.

“The results of 2018 are as follows: the population decreased to almost 9.476 million,” Irina Kostevich said.

In order to overcome this negative trend, the participants of the session discuss various measures which can help improve the demographic situation in the country. These are the provision of a family capital for a longer period of time, more active construction of housing for families with many children, the possibility to make one in-vitro fertilization attempt for free.

Partaking in the session are the prime minister, the head of the Belarus President Administration, ministers and heads of other government agencies, heads of oblast executive committees and senior officials of the Development Bank.