Draft decree on foreign gratuitous aid: Lawtrend comment.

20/11/2017

Over the past few days, numerous NGOs representatives have repeatedly turned to the Legal Transformation Center with a request on how serious are the draft changes planned to be introduced into the Decree #5 of the President of the Republic of Belarus from August 31, 2015, “On foreign donations” aimed at improving the procedure for obtaining, using foreign gratuitous assistance, and its exemption from taxes and fees (duties).

The Lawtrend Center expert Volha Smalianka prepared a short comment: The most significant drawback of the draft is that it does not affect the very system of registering foreign aid, and introduces only a few cosmetic changes in the procedure for obtaining and using aid. For example, by abolishing several recently introduced norms and bringing tax issues in line with earlier official explanations, the draft, as before, does not set the minimum amount of aid received by non-commercial organizations that does not require registration, does not address issues related with the permissive principle of registration of foreign aid, that of the individual character of tax exemption for each tranche received, and many more.

The draft also fails to conform with other innovations that are currently taking place in Belarus. For example, four human rights plans have recently been adopted in Belarus: an interagency plan to implement recommendations under the UPR and between other treaty bodies for the rights of people with disabilities, gender people, and children.

However, implementation of none of these plans is referred to in the stated goals of the draft.

Positive (as far as it can be called so) changes in the proposed draft include the following: dropping the requirement for foreign founders and domestic members of non-profit organizations to register with the Department for Humanitarian Affairs, scrapping the rule requiring non-profit organizations to allot no more than 20% of its aid on employees payroll, setting the amount of aid on the balance sheets that can be used without further agreement with the Department.

At the same time, it should be noted that the aforementioned changes will not suffice to substantially affect the improvement of the situation with the access of non-profit organizations to financial assistance.

For NGOs’ better use, the Legal Transformation Center has prepared a document summarizing existing norms and proposed changes. Let us remind you that the Department for Humanitarian Activity collects proposals until November 21, 2017 at the address departugd@tut.by