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Opinions & Interviews

19 Feb 2019

Opinion: Providing one free IVF procedure is the right thing to do

Opinion: Providing one free IVF procedure is the right thing to do

MINSK, 19 February (BelTA) – Giving Belarusians an opportunity to have one IVF procedure free of charge is the right thing to do, Labor and Social Security Minister Irina Kostevich told reporters following a session hosted by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko to discuss the demographic situation and the support for families with children on 19 February, BelTA has learned.

First of all, Irina Kostevich cited some facts and figures. In 2015 Belarus had a record high number of births, with about 120,000 babies born. However, it was followed by a gradual decline. Last year, for example, fewer than 95,000 babies were born. As of 1 January, Belarus had a population of nearly 9.476 million.

“As far as the birth rate is concerned, the so-called baby bust generation of the 1990s has grown. Therefore, we have fewer women of childbearing age now. Of course, we should encourage births. However, it can be achieved primarily through a stable economy, accommodation opportunities and a good financial situation of families. We will work on it,” she said.

According to the minister, the participants of the meeting analyzed reasons for the birth decline and a rather high death rate and discussed ways to improve family policies. Top on the agenda were issues like housing for families raising many children, improvement of the family capital program, provision of additional pension benefits and other means of support. 

Irina Kostevich believes that the government does a lot to support families; however, family policies should be improved. “Maternity benefits alone (the benefits for mothers raising children under three years of age) are estimated at nearly Br2.2 billion, or 1.8% of GDP. We realize that the country can be proud of that. According to experts, nearly 5% of GDP is spent on supporting families. This includes family capital, subsidized housing, subsidies for healthcare provision and education. Therefore, the scale of support is really big,” she noted.

The participants of the session considered a possibility to provide one IVF cycle free of charge. “Our ministry is in favor of this idea. This will result in 1,500-2,000 more newborns, good, healthy babies, citizens of the Republic of Belarus. Why not move in this direction? This is the right thing to do and we should go ahead with it,” the minister believes.

On the eve of the meeting, the governors had met with families raising many children to discuss demographic issues and ways to support families trying to identify the problems that concerned people the most. They reported about the results of these meetings to the president.

During the session hosted by Alexander Lukashenko, the government, the Belarus President Administration, various ministries and regional authorities gave their take on demographic issues. The head of state gave an instruction to systematize all the proposals, take stock of all the benefits and come back to this matter at a session of the Presidium of the Council of Ministers. The governors were instructed to deal with this matter on the ground.

“Of course, we need to take inventory of all the benefits, allowances and guarantees provided to families by the state. We need to determine what works. Maybe, some benefits should be revised and increased,” Irina Kostevich said.

The proposals voiced during the session will be fine-tuned and discussed with the president again. After that, final decisions will be taken.

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