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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Genuine threats

27 March, 2007 - 00:00

The Day’s experts note that if the economy holds sway in our state instead of politics, everything will fall into place. The only people who could argue with this reasonable idea are those who are more interested in the struggle for power.

A certain politician who was left without a job sent a declaration to The Day in which he was literally screaming about the fact that in February the Ukrainian economy took a step backwards because the “GDP rate had fallen” from 9.3 percent in January to 7.9 percent in February. There is no doubt that the ex-politician and ex-minister knows perfectly well that the crux of the matter here is just a base for comparison, which in January 2006, when he was still in power, was lower than anything. That is why the January indices were considerably higher than the February ones. But even this month the growth rate was somewhat higher, as the experts admit.

However, one should not invent threats to our economy. They truly exist and need diligent attention from all branches of government. Non-payments can destabilize the country’s financial currents, which will have an impact on production, trade and citizens’ lives. Strangely enough, for some reason determined critics of the government are barely paying attention to this, although I think that not even they would dare to defend defaulters.

We received some good news recently, which was shared by the first deputy head of the Kyiv City Administration, Anatolii Holubchenko. According to him, utility payments in Kyiv as of March 23 stood at 146 million hryvnias, a figure that includes the already calculated sum of 142 million. “Everything coming in the next few days is 100 percent payment,” the deputy mayor boasted. He also noted that within the structure of receivable payments the correlation between current payments and debts paid for December-January for utility services according to the new rates is approximately “50:50.” “But this is of no importance to us,” Holubchenko continued. “The fact that people have gone to pay and that they are paying bills in advance proves that there will be continuing order in the payment of utility services.”

According to Holubchenko, the payments according to the new rates cover only 50 percent of the services’ prime cost. “This proves that we need to do a lot more work on the rates, and this year even go the route of subsidies,” he complained. But I repeat: the news is good. Even though there are still a lot of problems, Kyiv has given an excellent signal to the country.

Prime Minister Yanukovych recently talked about the need to adopt a law that would entail responsibility for the non-payment of money for services provided, including utilities. “You cannot refuse to pay for gas or electricity, or for heating because all this costs money. You have to pay 100 percent,” he urged defaulters. Haz Ukrainy has already reduced gas deliveries to 23 heat and power companies because of insufficient payment. Three hundred companies face disconnection next.

This week Deputy Prime Minister Andrii Kliuiev held a meeting where he tried to squeeze 100-percent payment from oblast state administrations for gas used by heat and energy companies (1.4 billion hryvnias since the beginning of the year). A first warning has been issued, and Kliuiev will apply a second round of pressure this month.

Meanwhile, in the center and locally, companies are coming up with their own measures. Haz Ukrainy has decided to take back all the state distributor pipelines from non-payer Cherkasyhaz (the payment level is at 49 percent). Meanwhile, it has removed Cherkasyteploenerho from the gas main.

But the most inventive ones were the utilities “tax workers” from Donetskmiskmerezha, who placed posters depicting Joseph Stalin along the streets of the coal miners’ capital, inscribed with the threatening slogan: “Comrades, this is not cinema - this is life! Those who do not pay for heating will be punished.” As Oleksandr Semchenko, deputy director of this utility company explains, many residents associate comrade Stalin with order and good discipline.

People who are behind in their heating bills will think about possible measures of influence. Semchenko explained that in the struggle with non-payers “the heating network” has to adopt severe measures, including lawsuits and even liens.

Some community organizations have rebelled against such excessive dedication. They say that people should not be intimated by the tyrant Stalin. I couldn’t agree more. The noble aim of freeing the country from the dangerous epidemic of defaulted payments cannot be justified by all means. But in this case harsh measures are unavoidable. Underprivileged citizens should be protected by state subsidies. Meanwhile, others have to remember about responsibility and where their stinginess may lead their city and the whole country.

By Vitalii KNIAZHANSKY, The Day