Lukashenka issues warning to non-workers

Alyaksandr Lukashenka reiterated on Friday that the government would take efforts to make able-bodied people work.

Лукашенко: лопату в зубы и иди работать
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"If we don't start involving them in socially useful labor like they used to say, we will be creating a class [of non-workers] and it will be growing," he said during his visit to Brest. "We cannot let that happen."

"Of course, there will be a small percentage of people who are capable of nothing," said Mr. Lukashenka. "We will be making them [work] through peculiar methods. But there are people who can [work] but avoid work. These people should be placed in a situation where they would have to work."

He warned that changes to his decree that introduced a so-called parasite tax would grant vast powers to local governments, according to the government's news agency BelTA. "We will identify those who can but do not want to work, those who want but cannot work and those who should be given a shovel and sent to work," he said. "They should not take offense."

Speaking last week, Mr. Lukashenka warned that the "parasite" tax would not be abolished.

Decree No. 3, titled "On Preventing Social Parasitism," was issued 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.

Earlier this summer, tax offices started making refunds to those who had paid the tax.