Lukashenka calls for "balanced, down-to-earth" changes to parasite tax decree

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Thursday called for "balanced and down-to-earth" changes to presidential Decree No. 3, which imposed a so-called parasite tax on non-working people and received a barrage of criticism from the public.

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Speaking at a meeting with top government officials, Mr. Lukashenka recalled that he had promised to sign a decree introducing changes to the parasite tax decree before the end of this year. 

"We agreed back then that in order not to be subjected to criticism and called stick-in-the-muds we should draw up this draft with consideration for the flaws and maybe mistakes that had been made during work on Decree No. 3," the presidential press office quoted Mr. Lukashenka as saying. 

The head of state reportedly noted that the changes should enable people to find work but also force people who "may but do not work" into work. 

He suggested that identifying non-workers and deciding who should be made to work was the task of local authorities. 

Decree No. 3, titled "On Preventing Social Parasitism," was issued in April 2015 for the declared purpose of "prompting able-bodied people to work and ensuring that they carry out their constitutional duty of participating in financing public expenses." 

Under the decree, people who officially worked for less than 183 calendar days in the year of assessment must pay an annual tax equal to 20 times the Base Rate, or some $240 at present. 

People may be fined two to four times the Base Rate or sentenced to days in jail for failure to pay the tax. 

In an apparent response to a wave of mass street protests against the highly unpopular tax that took place across Belarus, Mr. Lukashenka said this past March that the tax would not be collected for the year 2015 and his decree should be fine-tuned, if necessary. 

Some 470,000 people were required to pay the tax for the year 2015 but only slightly more than 54,000 actually paid it before the February 20 deadline. As much as 16.3 million rubels was raised through the tax. 

This past summer, tax offices started making refunds to those who had paid the tax. 

Speaking to a group of newly appointed local government officials on September 14, Mr. Lukashenka said that it was the task of local authorities "to determine on the ground who does not work but should do so and to make all of them work." 

"Someone needs to be helped, someone needs to be taken by the hand and led to work, someone needs to be retrained for a new occupation and someone needs to be simply bent over," Mr. Lukashenka said.