The Economic


THE nuclear disaster in Chernobyl damaged the economies of Belarus and Ukraine and the local economies of the Russian regions affected in a wide variety of ways. No figures on the damages have been recorded by all three countries using the same method. The Institute of Economics of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences estimates that the country's economy will suffer losses of USD 43.3 billion in the first 30 years after the accident with total damages in the same period projected to be USD 235 billion. This is 32 times the national budget for 1985. Currently, the republic is consuming around 10% of its national budget managing the consequences of Chernobyl which includes investment of around 6% of its budget in the official Chernobyl programme.

Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the World Bank. The consequences of Chernobyl have therefore been particularly severe.

The Belarusian Chernobyl Committee lists some of the negative consequences of the disaster on the economy as including;

•  The disuse or loss of value of agricultural land - the disaster has effectively deprived the country of 22% of its agricultural land as a result of radioactive fallout.

•  The loss of mineral resources (timber) - the disaster has effectively deprived the country of 21% of its forests as a result of radioactive fallout; 54 large agricultural and forestry enterprises had to be closed. The committee estimates that the forestry business alone will suffer USD 2 billion worth of damage in the years 2001 - 2015

•  Lost production and the loss of labour in the contaminated territories - companies are unable to recruit professional staff, since young and well trained inhabitants move away from the area; 9 industrial enterprises had to be closed. Farms are unable to maintain sufficient workforce largely because young people are leaving the area out of fear for their health and that of their children.

•  Loss of value of products from the contaminated areas. Many farms in the contaminated areas are no longer profitable, despite government assistance and the produce is often difficult to sell, even when it has been strictly monitored. The sale of mushrooms, berries and game from the forest at market is a traditional source of income for the poor in rural areas. These products as with fish from lakes and rivers are among the most heavily contaminated foodstuffs and many families are suffering a loss of income.

To try to secure the continued existence of farmers in the contaminated areas, the government are providing uncontaminated feed for their livestock. The passage of radionuclides into the food chain can be reduced to a significant extent by careful selection of crops, specific ploughing methods and targeted fertilisation. Uncontaminated hay and feed additives (sorbents) combined with limitation of grazing periods can also lower the contamination of milk and meat.

Belarus and Ukraine levy an emergency, or Chernobyl tax, for dealing with the disaster. Initially, all companies except those in the agricultural sector, had to pay 18 or 19% of their salary costs to the State. This tax is still levied but has reduced to about 4% in Belarus. Up until 1995, about 70% of the Chernobyl tax was spent on the resettlement and infrastructure programmes. Since then the focus has shifted onto social and medical aid programmes such as the CORE programme.

The population in the Gomel region reduced by 5.1% during the course of the year 2000. The lack of young people impedes the whole social and economic development of the contaminated territories. There is a shortage of teachers and doctors and this also affects the quality of the educational and healthcare infrastructure. Companies and farms have to close because of a lack of skilled workers which leads to more families moving away. Those left behind feel neglected by the politicians. The government have tried to counter this trend since 1995 with targeted regional economic development programmes in the affected areas such as the Economic Development Agency in Gomel (supported by the European Union).

Source of information and further reading -

Abandoned house