Belarusians Protest 'Parasite Tax'

Starting on February 19, as many as 2,500 Belarusians took to the street to protest a so-called parasite tax. The parasite tax requires citizens who have not worked for more than 183 days to pay an additional flat tax of $200, which, in Belarus, is more than half the average monthly salary. Of the 470,000 people reportedly affected by the law, only 10 percent have paid the tax. The government stated that the tax is intended to prevent people from living off the state, and, according to Radio Free Europe, the tax does not affect people who are currently looking for work or are homemakers.

Radio Free Europe also reports that “about 60,000 people have signed a petition opposing the law.” The site claims that citizens are using the law as a pretext to show opposition to the Lukashenko government.

The protests over the parasite tax are the largest since 2011, which may be because of the growing dissatisfaction with Lukashenko, who has been president of Belarus for two decades. According to Deutsche Welle, the country has also been in a recession due to low oil prices and an economic downturn in Russia, where many Belarusians work.

While the protests are technically unauthorized, authorities are tolerating them. Whether the protests will have any impact on the law remains to be seen.