Belarusian press #14: "Tariffs for housing and communal services may increase”

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The heating will be on starting from October 15 and it means people will have to pay more for their flats. Journalists have started worrying in advance. They asked the deputy Minster of Housing and Communal Services whether tariffs would increase together with the planned increase of rent. The deputy Minister of the Housing and Communal Services Syarhei Sushko said that the question was being discussed but it was difficult to comment on it because the decision had not been taken yet.

It is a standard situation and a standard reply. However, journalists mention a certain number – some rumours about the 25% increase starting from October 1 have been circulating. It is unknown who distributed the information but the attitude of governmental and independent mass media to it is interesting.

State mass media did not mention the 25% increase and concentrated on the fact that citizens are paying for only 34% of the services rendered ftoor them although the payback due to it is 41%, informs “Sovetskaya Belorussiya”.

“Participation of the population in paying for housing and communal services has lowered to 34%. At the same time there was another number in the budget of 2007. It was planned that people would be paying 41% of the cost of water, gas, energy and technical services”.

While state mass media were trying to convince their readers that they were paying less than they had to, independent edition counted for how much the rent would increase if the 25% information was true. The government silently watched the situation and announced that the tariffs would not increase at the end of the week.

That gave a lot of ideas to state mass media. “Tariffs for housing and communal services will not be increased in Belarus”, - reports “Zvyazda”. They consider “some reserves” to be the main reason for it. Lukashenka already said that tariffs would not increase for more than 5$ once a year. Tariffs for gas and energy already increased by 20% at the beginning of the year so it couldn’t increase again.

“This year will not witness any other increase of tariffs because all reserves have already been used”, - “Zvyazda” quotes the head of the department of housing and communal services and energy of the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services of Belarus Alyaksandr Litvinau.

It also adds that expenses for housing and communal services make up only 9% of Belarusians’ income and mentions that it used to take 11% in 2003. “The index is 35% in Germany”, - continues “Zvyazda”.

At the same time the journalists do not take into account the buying capability of Belarusian people. However, according to economists from “PRIME-TASS”, a Belarusian would have to earn more than 2000 USD per month now:

“For example, you earned 500 USD five years ago but of course, taking into account the buying capability, 500 USD five years ago and today is not the same thing.

Starting from 2002 Belarusian tariffs have increased by 6 times so the dollar has become 4.5 times cheaper as regards housing and communal services”. So a 500 USD wage should have turned into 2300 USD per month”.

What should we wait for in 2008? There is no answer to it now. According to the Ministry of Housing and Communal Services, Belarusians will have to pay 81500 BRB for a one-room flat, 122000 for a two-room flat and 170000 for a tree-room flat during the cold season.