National Human Development Report 2004-2005. Belarus: Addressing the Imbalances in Economy and Society

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The Report examines the main challenges to human development in Belarus. Similar to the previous 2003 Report,"The human capacity of Belarus: economic challenges and social responses", some of its central themes include the integration of Belarus into the world economy, paths to sustainable growth, improvements in general living standards, environmental protection, and priorities for institutional and economic reform. To respond to these and other challenges, difficult choices must be made among differing, and at times conflicting priorities. Choices such as faster growth or greater equity, increased economic security or broader freedom for private initiative, more investments or consumption - and many others - are acknowledged in countless countries and societies. In its pursuit of enhanced human development, Belarus also faces some very similar tradeoffs, many of which have been outlined in this report. How can it effectively integrate into a globalised economy while adhering to market-driven practices, and what would be the price of that transformation in terms of equity and social safety? What are the best strategies for aligning Belarusian institutions and policies with European practices, while sacrificing as little as possible of its sovereignty and cultural identity? How can Belarusian industries continue to benefit from the economies of scale and concentration, while also giving each of the country’s regions and communities fair opportunities to participate in economic development and growth? What reforms are necessary to maintain existing high levels of education, health care and other public services, under rigid financial constraints? How can Belarus balance an atmosphere of trust among its people, and an environment conducive to social inclusion and activism, with increased competitiveness and individual responsibility characteristic of market economies? All of these are complex choices, and there is no standard recommendation for determining the right solutions. Like many other countries in transition, Belarus has had to seek its own creative responses, often by trial and error. In these conditions, taking a gradual and staged approach to socio-economic reform can be a good strategy to avoid errors and to minimise social costs. However, this strategy also creates major risks by delaying necessary change. Serious imbalances that result in high social and economic losses can occur from premature choices as well as from delayed decisions. The purpose of this report is to identify and analyse some of these tangible or probable imbalances in the geopolitical, economic, regional, environmental and other domains. If not addressed appropriately and in a timely manner, all of these imbalances could negatively affect human development.


Galina Gasiuk

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