President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree “on urgent measures to implement reforms aimed at stimulating economic growth and strengthening the state”. This was announced on November 9 by the press service of the head of Ukrainian state.
The new decree should provide “the introduction of additional mechanisms to accelerate the socio-economic development of Ukraine, increasing the level of well-being of the population, harmonious development of the regions, the introduction of European living standards,” the website of the president notes.
In private hands
A number of goals indicated in the document should be realized by the end of the current year, that is, in less than two months. Among them, mainly the development and submission to the Verkhovna Rada of bills. For example, on “countering the illegal extraction of amber,” paying off debts in the wholesale electricity market, managing waste, liberalizing labor laws, etc. Also, by the end of the year, Ukraine should introduce a new integrated system of command and control of the armed forces according to “NATO standards”.
Significant attention will be paid to various initiatives on "liberalization" and privatization. " So, before the end of the year, the Ukrainian government should prepare proposals for creating a competitive rail transportation market, “liberalizing activities in the production of ethyl alcohol” and “ensure the start of large-scale privatization” by identifying five objects that the state will transfer to private hands in the near future.
Also, according to Zelensky’s order, by the end of the year “preparations should be provided for the introduction of the agricultural land market”.
Recall that back in August, the President of Ukraine announced his intention to carry out land reform by the end of 2019 and to abolish the moratorium on the sale of agricultural land, which has been in force since 2001. In his opinion, this will spur the development of the country's economy.
The Ukrainian president has long been talking about the need for "big privatization" in Ukraine. Insists on the sale of state property and the International Monetary Fund.
September 2, Vladimir Zelensky said that the Cabinet should prepare proposals for the privatization of large state-owned companies by December 1. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Dmitry Razumkov and chairman of the ruling faction "Servant of the People" David Arahamia, he instructed to cancel the current list of state property that is not subject to privatization. A month later, the Parliament repealed the relevant law.
On October 23, Ukrainian media, citing the Zelensky press service, announced the president’s intention to abolish the state monopoly on alcohol production. According to the President’s proposal to the Verkhovna Rada, from January 1, 2020, private companies will be able to produce the main component in the production of strong alcohol. This measure should compensate for the losses from the existence of the shadow market for alcoholic beverages and remove the illegal business from the shadows.
However, experts say that Zelensky’s attempts to advance the projects of “privatization” and “liberalization” may meet with serious opposition from the population.
One of the most pressing issues is the lifting of the moratorium on the sale of land. According to opinion polls, more than 70% of Ukrainians are against this measure. Among the most frequently expressed concerns is the prospect of buying up Ukrainian land by foreigners.
In September, Zelensky promised that after the lifting of the moratorium "only Ukrainian citizens or Ukrainian companies will be able to buy or sell land." However, on November 8 on Ukraine’s TV channel, the head of the President’s Office, Andrei Bogdan, said that four years later, foreigners would be able to buy Ukrainian land.
Large-scale privatization plans were criticized. In particular, the intention to put under the hammer "Ukrposhta" and the companies that are now members of the state concern "Ukroboronprom".
At the end of October, the leader of the Batkivshchyna party, Yulia Tymoshenko, announced that she would seek the abolition of laws on privatization. In particular, the politician accused the authorities of the intention to privatize Ukrainian nuclear power plants, the gas transmission system and the Druzhba oil pipeline running through the country.
Later, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on energy and housing and communal services Andrei Gerus partially reassured the public, saying that they would not hand over nuclear power plants to private hands.
But Ukrzaliznytsia will be partially privatized and divided into three companies. But this news does not please its employees. On November 14, the leadership of the union of railway workers and transport builders of Ukraine planned a picket in front of the President’s Office with a demand to stop the reform.
- Trains in Kiev
- © Gleb Garanich / Reuters
On November 9, Prime Minister of Ukraine Alexey Goncharuk announced that the privatization of Centrenergo, a large energy company, was on the government’s priority list. It produces about 8% of the country's electricity.
Centrenergo is in the top priority for privatization. And I want this company to be privatized by an external, real player, ”Interfax-Ukraine quotes Goncharuk.
According to Ukrainian media, the reform of labor legislation announced by the president is beneficial for business, but not for hired workers. In particular, the new labor code, which is being considered by the Rada, offers a simplification of the dismissal procedure. Galina Tretyakova, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Social Policy and the Protection of Veterans' Rights, earlier admitted: "This means that we will discriminate a little against an employee."
As Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS Countries, noted in an interview with RT, all reforms announced by Zelensky will increase the degree of tension in Ukraine.
“This will lead to social tension in Ukraine. Land has practically remained the only unsold property for the citizens of the country. Its sale will lead to the fact that the land will be bought up by interethnic monopolies, which will exploit it predatory, harming the environment. As for the removal of the state monopoly on alcohol, a sharp decrease in quality is possible here, which could cause mass poisoning, ”he said.
“No one asks ordinary Ukrainians for opinions”
RT sources in the ruling circles of Ukraine express doubts that Zelensky will be able to resolve all these problems in the near future.
“Zelensky instructed to tidy up the country's most corrupt industries. For example, about half of the vodka market in Ukraine is in the shade. Amber is mined illegally, and land has still been banned from selling. But the problem is that in each of these industries there are a lot of problems. It is impossible to solve them in a couple of months. Most Ukrainians are against the sale of land, and illegal amber miners already have their own army, ”said a RT source in the office of the President of Ukraine.
In turn, RT sources in Ukrainian opposition parties predict new protests.
“The problem is that no one asks the opinions of ordinary Ukrainians. This can lead to mass protests and confrontation with law enforcement agencies. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to work out such important reforms in two months, ”a source in the Fatherland Party told a RT correspondent.
According to the source of RT in the party “European Solidarity” Petro Poroshenko, Zelensky’s proposals “resemble a fairy tale”.
“Sometimes it seems to me that the president does not understand the whole depth of the problems. Many industries are corrupt and the protest against government reform will be huge. You can deal with problems in one industry, but when everyone protests at once, it is dangerous. It seems to me that Zelensky is not fully aware of what problems he will face in six months, ”the source said.
In turn, the RT source in the Golos party said it was highly likely that the promised reforms would "collapse."
“Those who decide to carry out such reforms are simply intimidated, and everything will remain as it is,” the deputy said to RT.
According to the president of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting Rostislav Ishchenko, Ukrainian officials will be able to prepare some reform plans in two months. The question is whether they will manage to implement these projects.
“Whatever his employees suggested to Zelensky, they are unlikely to be able to realize this because of the deterioration of Ukrainian state institutions, their inadequacy,” Ischenko said in an interview with RT.
According to the expert, the main problem of Ukraine is the influence of oligarchic groups on decision-making processes in the state.
“The most different Ukrainian governments fail, because they represent the interests of the oligarchs, not the state. But the oligarchs have goals and interests diametrically opposed to the goals of the state. Therefore, things do not go beyond the right words, ”the political scientist notes.
Director of the Institute for Peace Initiatives and Conflictology Denis Denisov told RT that the effectiveness of reforms will depend on the political will of the Ukrainian government.
“It all depends on political will. If an adequate system for introducing these ideas is built, and there is also control by the supreme bodies of state power, then there is no problem, said RT Denisov. “If the corruption component dominates, then either everything will remain as it was, or everything will simply be plundered.”
- © Barbara Gertier / RIA News
Vladimir Zharikhin, in turn, notes that Zelensky’s proposals will not bring the necessary funds to the treasury.
“It is unlikely that these measures will ensure economic growth. Some suggest a one-time profit from the sale of national property. This applies to the sale of land, the elimination of the state monopoly on the production of alcoholic beverages, which replenishes the budget. Therefore, I am afraid that these measures will worsen the situation of the economy, and not improve it, ”the expert concluded.