Lukashenka: Average pay of $500 is feasible

Alyaksandr Lukashenka insisted on Thursday that raising average monthly pay to $500 in Belarus was a completely realistic task this year.

"We have no such disastrous situation where people may not make money," he said after handing out doctor’s degree and professorial certificates at a ceremony in Minsk. "One can make money. And yet we have to raise living standards. An average salary of $500 is not too high a figure."

Mr. Lukashenka said that average pay had reached $417 in December last year, according to the government's news agency BelTA. "Just a bit more needs to be made to reach $500," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka acknowledged that some top government officials were skeptical about the task of raising average pay to $500. "If you think it's impossible, put your briefcase down and go," he warned. "If the president has set a task, it should be accomplished. What, is it an unfeasible task? It is feasible. We simply need to sell more of what we can make and of what we have not made so far. Sell [it] and pay people."

A situation where executives spend holidays in exotic resorts while ordinary employees at their companies are paid just $350 a month is unacceptable, Mr. Lukashenka warned. "That's why this is not populism whatsoever, this is the life of our people. No matter how difficult the situation is, people understand it. They have to be paid for that," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka promised that he would stop putting pressure on the government to secure higher incomes once average pay reached $500. With free healthcare and education and low utility rates and gasoline prices, a $500 salary is an acceptable income, he said.

"I can give you [average pay of] $1,000 tomorrow," he added. "But you would have to pay when you go to school like in the West… That's why we'd rather not break what we have but polish it quietly instead."

Average real (inflation-adjusted) monthly pay in Belarus decreased by four percent in 2016, according to the National Statistical Committee.

It said that pre-tax monthly pay in Belarus averaged out at 801.6 rubels (some $400) in December 2016.