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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

The New Year adventures of a rabbit and… pension reform

23 December, 2010 - 00:00

It must be very human and deeply embedded to forget all bad and unpleasant things in the last days of December. A festive mood has also seeped into the Verkhovna Rada. A Christmas tree was put up in the lobby, and Kateryna Lukianova (NU-NS faction) was handing out tree decorations to her fellow parliamentarians. A rabbit even appeared at the Rada. Roman Vintoniv, a journalist from the Breakfast with 1+1 TV program, showed up in parliament, wearing the New Year plush outfit of a rabbit. There was a mixed reaction to the “rabbit.” Some smiled, some filmed him on their cell phones, and others said he was nuts. Iryna Karmeliuk, a vigilant member of the VR press service, tried to remove the “rabbit,” arguing that parliament is no laughing matter. But journalists stood up for the colleague.

“So you can hit people with a chair on the head but can’t come in the outfit of a rabbit?” The Day’s correspondent intervened. The spokeswoman was unable to reply and walked away.

But the rabbit’s adventures pale against the backdrop of pension reform peripetia. Truly strange things are happening to this draft law. The government reportedly moved the bill in parliament on December 13. The text was registered and a serial number was assigned, but, in contravention of all the rules of procedure, none of the MPs, journalists, and others whom this might concern, could read the bill. For some unknown reason, it was not posted on the website. On Monday the speaker announced that the Cabinet had revoked the document in order to modify it. On Tuesday morning it was reported that the bill had been submitted again.

“This flouts all the laws,” Ostap Semerak (BYuT) told The Day in indignation. “The text was approved at a Cabinet of Ministers meeting. And it is only at a cabinet meeting that any changes can be made to it. Was there a cabinet meeting on Monday evening? No! What could they change? On what grounds?”

The MP thinks there are two explanations of this inconsistency. Firstly, there is not a single approved text. Secondly, they do not want to shock people shortly before New Year’s Day.

In general, the latter explanation sounds more plausible. To tell the truth, the leak that occurred a week ago is already somewhat shocking. Above all, it raises the retirement age for women. If this document is anything to go by, from 2011 onwards, women will begin to have their retirement age raised step by step to 60 (men have been spared for the time being), and the old-age pension insurance period will be raised to 10 years for all Ukrainians. And, most unexpectedly, the military and other specific categories of citizens who usually retire at 35-40 will have to wait until they turn 60 to be entitled to a well-earned pension. “This will apply to the military pensioners who are now quitting the Ukrainian Army en masse, as well as the police, and the Security Service,” Serhii Sobolev, a Batkivshchyna MP, explains. “When we hear that people in this country retire at 40, we should look into each concrete case. I think that if you make an inquiry, you will see that a very limited number of people retire at 40. It is the disabled and those who took part in combat actions — in those cases, one year is equal to two or three. These people were eligible for this kind of pension. Others were paid their pensions at 45-50.”

Yet there is a clause which the public is sure to welcome almost unanimously. One of the key provisions of the cabinet-drawn pension reform is a drastic reduction of pensions for MPs, civil servants, judges, etc. But there is also a snag here. Nobody is going to set the upper limits for the current “elite” pensioners. In this case, the powers that be have invoked Article 22 of the Constitution on social guarantees. But this is utterly forgotten when there is a need to raise the minimum pension. Incidentally, seven million Ukrainians receive a minimum pension of 750 hryvnias, barely enough to survive on.

By Olena YAKHNO, The Day