Belarus suspends 'social parasite' tax

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People protest against the "social parasites" tax in Minsk, Belarus. Photo: 17 February 2017Image source, AP
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Mass protests were held across Belarus last month against the unpopular tax decree

Belarus's president has suspended the collection of a tax on people not in full-time employment - the so-called decree "against social parasites".

Alexander Lukashenko said those who worked fewer than 183 days per year would not be liable in 2017 - but stressed the tax would not be scrapped.

The decree - adopted in 2015 - requires those people to pay about $250 (£205) as compensation for lost tax revenues.

It triggered mass protests last month, and more rallies are planned for March.

Mr Lukashenko announced the decision to freeze the tax collection at a government meeting in the capital Minsk on Thursday.

"The decree must be adjusted during March. The decree will not be abolished," he was quoted as saying by Belarus's Belta news agency.

The president also said that those who had already paid the tax in 2016 would be fully compensated if they found a job next year.

According to the last tax inspection, 470,000 people should have paid the tax but only 50,000 had done so, Reuters news agency reports.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Alexander Lukashenko has been described by some Western officials as "Europe's last dictator"

At the same time, the president warned that the authorities must show "tough reaction" to organisers of any future street protests against the decree.

Mr Lukashenko has run Belarus - a country where little dissent is tolerated - since 1994.

He has been described by some Western officials as "Europe's last dictator".

However, Mr Lukashenko has recently been seeking to improve ties with the West and lessen the country's dependence on Russia.