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On the ability to listen and ask questions

Iryna TYKHOMYROVA: Business’s social responsibility is its insurance against a social outburst in the future
06 December, 00:00

Which do you think is the key factor that has triggered an upsurge of social tension in Ukraine?

“In fact, there is a number of factors: lame legislation, shade business, corruption, blunders in economic policy, and even the global crisis. I do not think there is one thing that you could pinpoint. If we knew this particular factor, we could eliminate it, and everything would fall in place.”

However, today’s street protesters say this can be done, and they do finger this factor. It is the absence of an adequate dialog between government and society.

“Right, there are hindrances to communication. But you cannot shift the blame on government alone, and say that the government, president, and prime minister will not listen to society. If you want to get an answer to a question, you should first ask this question. Society must ask the question, and government must answer it. I don’t think that today Ukrainians are asking correct questions. Our society’s demands are too general. Thus, on its part, government is trying to react to these reproofs, but these attempts are also incorrect. At the moment, the dialog between government and society looks like a conversation between a deaf man and a mute man. The former cannot speak, the latter cannot hear.”

How should business act in these hard times? What is its major social responsibility to society?

“Under the conditions of unfolding social protests and increasing political tension, business should keep working as business. It cannot trespass and interfere with politics. The mission of business is not shaping social politics. It is working and being honest before the state: paying taxes honestly, caring for its consumers, customers, and partners, providing decent conditions for its employees, etc.

“But if business takes to the street together with the people, the consequences will cause irreparable harm to the economy and national security: people will lose their wages, households will lose incomes, and consumers won’t get goods or services. This will only worsen the country’s social situation. The risk of social outbursts can be reduced to zero if everyone does their job professionally.

“Besides, business must be aware that social responsibility is also its insurance against a social outburst in the future. Environmental protection, or doing away with ‘enveloped’ salaries are extremely important things, indispensable for the survival of business today. It is utterly irresponsible if you do business today without giving a thought to your social amenability, since the slightest rise in social tension can entail the demise of all your gains.”

Expert circles tend to increasingly accuse the incumbent regime of creating a latent taxation system for citizens. Can you see these trends today? How, from economy’s perspective, can this jeopardize national security?

“Even the most liberal taxation system will always find an unhappy opponent among the taxpayers. Ukraine’s fiscal system has more ‘foes’ than enough. And these are obvious things.

“For us businesspeople today such a threatening fiscal burden is the VAT for education services. There can be no doubt that its introduction will slow down the development of business education in Ukraine.”

Most members of today’s Ukrainian government come from business. Apparently, they should be the first one interested in improving the country’s business climate. In particular, to protect their property, they need to bring down the risk of raider attacks. However, from numerous reports and statements we can see that instead of diminishing, this risk is even growing. Why do you think this happens?

“Business is always interested in development, expansion, and competition. These are obvious, usual things. They stem from the nature of business. But to stop business from trespassing the civilized boundaries in order to protect its own interests, state should set adequate rules: transparency, supervision of proprietorship, protection of corporate rights, and independent judicial system.

“Business slang strongly resembles that of the military: ‘seize the markets,’ ‘kill the rival,’ etc. But it is up to the state to see that these words remain a part of professional jargon, and not crime news roundup.

“We are on our way there. It is hard for me to say when the results of this progress will become evident. But I am convinced that if a better life is our strategic goal, then we will have an improved business climate. This goal is unachievable without civilized rules. Both government and business must realize it today, and so they do.”

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