Lawmaker urges action against officials over removal of state benefits

The Council of Ministers convinced lawmakers that the draft law would adjust social equality and reduce the financial burden on the budget, whereas saved...

A senior member of the Belarusian National Assembly's House of Representatives has suggested punishing authors of a law that removed state benefits to many people in December 2007, BelaPAN reports.

Mikalay Chursin, chairman of the standing Committee on Housing Policy, Construction, Trade and Privatization in the lower chamber, made the suggestion when members of the national legislature met with government officials on Friday.

«Lawmakers had a number of questions when the draft law was debated,» Mr. Chursin said. «But the Council of Ministers, represented by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, convinced lawmakers that the draft law would adjust social equality and reduce the financial burden on the budget, whereas saved funds would be allocated to support of children.»

He said that the cabinet's rationale had however proved to be «absolutely wrong.» «In the first quarter of 2008, we saw almost a threefold increase in budget expenditures on the purposes instead of the saving of budget funds. The railroads sustained losses, too,» he stressed.

Mr. Chursin noted that Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka now «has to remedy the situation caused by the law.»

Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Kabyakow argued that «we adopted the law together.»

«If you submit proposals for the responsibility of specific officials we are really ready to study them,» he said.

The legislation that scrapped the benefits was rushed through the National Assembly in May 2007 and signed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka into law in June.

The government removed reduced fares for students, the holders of the Veteran of Labor title and some people entitled to them whilst on duty.

It cut down benefits for former prisoners of Nazi camps and Chernobyl aftermath privileges for some people, as well as made fewer people entitled to discounts on utility and phone bills and health services.

The House of Representatives passed both readings of the bill on one day, May 23, with Representative Volha Abramava being the only lawmaker who voted against it. The Council of the Republic unanimously approved the legislation five days later. It took a total of four minutes for Anatol Novikaw, head of the upper chamber's Committee on Education, Science, Culture and Humanitarian Matters, to present the bill to the upper chamber and for it to take the vote.

Ms. Abramava said on Friday that she was «deeply grateful to the president» for his recent move to restore a seasonal 50-percent discount on suburban journeys for retirees.

She emphasized the need to increase support also for former Chernobyl cleanup workers.