Olena CHUZHYKOVA, columnist, Dniprovska pravda newspaper (Dnipropetrovsk):
The main task facing the new Ukrainian administration is to fulfill Viktor Yanukovych’s campaign program. Although it may sound strange, the ex-premier made a number of promises in order to win over the electorate and beat his rival. This tactic so raised the level of social expectations that Viktor Yushchenko’s team simply cannot ignore them.
For example, the ex-premier increased pensions twofold by applying targeted aid. Today, his successful rival has no alternative but to find sources to finance this increase. It would be easier for the new government to boost prices than to deprive pensioners of their increased allowances. Viktor Yushchenko and his team should know better than to play with fire before the next parliamentary elections.
Yanukovych’s other campaign initiatives are equally explosive. Consider his promise to repay the debts to depositors of the former Soviet Savings Bank by transferring these sums at the expense of municipal payments. The electorate liked the idea so much that many people immediately stopped paying their central heating, water, and gas bills, leaving the municipal authorities in a state of shock. Now that Yanukovych is out of the picture, he can justify himself, whereas Yushchenko’s supporters, who are debating a necessary increase in municipal costs, risk being caught in a rather embarrassing predicament.
There are other examples of Yanukovych’s know-how, which the electorate found very attractive: payments of bad payroll debts at coal mines, industrial enterprises, and in the agrarian sector; a tangible increase in the payroll of budget-sustained organizations, reinstatement of benefits for veterans, and so on. Be that as it may, the new Ukrainian administration will have to spend the rest of the year before the parliamentary elections coping with Viktor Yanukovych’s social legacy and making certain decisions to seize the initiative. This is easier said than done, especially without running the risk of causing further misbalances to the central budget. So it will be very convenient for the new opposition and Viktor Yanukovych in particular to lash out at the government’s social policy.
Oleksandr LYTVYNENKO, first deputy director, National Institute of Strategic Studies:
The new government’s first decision should be to prepare and submit changes to this year’s budget. Both the President of Ukraine and the people who represent today’s empowered political forces have stressed the need to amend it and bring it in line with its various clauses. Another very important task is the implementation of administrative reform. Task number three is connected to this reform: the need to take concrete steps to separate business from the state, reduce the size of the shadow economy, and combat corruption. Corruption cannot be destroyed in principle, meaning that the government must create conditions in which resorting to corruption will no longer be a matter of necessity, a matter of course for bureaucrats, but a matter of personal choice.
Viktoriya PIDHORNA, director, Social and Political Projection Center:
The new cabinet is faced with a broad range of tasks, especially if Yuliya Tymoshenko, as acting premier, obtains the required number of votes in parliament (and I think the probability is high). No previous governments have ever faced them. In order to solve them, adjustments must first be made in the cabinet’s structure. In other words, the process of restructuring the institutions of power must begin, considering that these institutions have never been effective or accountable to the electorate.
Another task involves implementing the package of social obligations that the new president and Yulia Tymoshenko have undertaken, namely: demonopolization of the market, which can generate additional budget revenues, and concomitant tangible adjustments to the budget. The biggest problem of the Ukrainian market is the presence of giant monopolies that function according to the one industry/one corporate group principle. This isn’t a good economic progress incentive, although it does stimulate its stability. Yuliya Tymoshenko will thus have to solve the dual problem of instituting genuinely equal and clear rules of the game for all operators without destroying this stability. Working out fair market game rules is the third systemic task. It will be connected to the task of amending not only the central budget by revising it in accordance with the logic of abolishing additional privileges and preferences for separate, especially larger business groups — and not only those that are meant for “our people,” since the principle of oligarchic expedience is not quite relevant in this context.
Oleksiy MATSUKA, political scientist (Donetsk):
A decision on privatization, particularly on revising and creating new conditions, is likely to be one of the most important decisions that the government can make. Here everything will depend on the kind of strength shown by those personalities that managed to become privatizers under the Kuchma regime. In other words, everything will depend on whether they will be determined to keep a piece of the privatized pie; accordingly, the stronger their determination, the harsher will be the struggle for their property. It could be a step leading to secret reprivatization by way of government requisitions aimed at covering the presidential campaign expenses. Yuliya Tymoshenko’s next step could be the coal industry and continuing to build her image as a champion of justice. This image suits her to a T, and she knows only too well that it will play an effective role during the parliamentary campaign in 2006. Thus, certain changes may take shape in the coal industry, which will be aimed at restructuring the mines’ output and the whole industry. This will cause angry protests from both mine owners and miners. Here Mrs. Tymoshenko will have to walk the razor’s edge, so as not to harm anyone and still remain on the winning side. In addition to coal and privatization, the “Orange Princess” is likely to concentrate on the energy sector. Here changes are also in order, and she must solve problems in the agrarian sector as soon as possible, especially since she has already promised positive changes there. It should be noted, however, that positive changes do not always mean that the population will be better off. Recall Vladimir Putin’s new communitarism or Gerhard Schroeder’s policy aimed at curtailing aid to the unemployed and social payments in Germany. This is good for the economy, but bad for the people. Harsh reforms are not recommended in Ukraine, considering its unstable economy (which has not been recognized as a market one), authoritarian elements, and fragile civil society. Whether Mrs. Tymoshenko is aware of this and the risk of deadlocking Viktor Yushchenko’s victory is something the presidential team should ponder seriously.
Aider EMIROV, director, Gasprinsky Crimean Republican Library:
The main thing is to secure transparency throughout the executive vertical. The point is not only to generate an electronic version of the budget so that every citizen can see the movement of taxpayers’ money, but also to make sure that every ministry, agency, regional, district, and all other administrations operate in a transparent mode. In order to eradicate corruption, journalists must have free access to all cabinet sessions and even the process of drafting resolutions. People will have full confidence in the new government and the new president only when they can keep constant track of their performance, when they can see there is an all-out struggle against corruption. Naturally, corruption isn’t going to disappear just like that, and it won’t be eradicated by a single government, no matter what resources it has at its disposal, so what we need is transparency with the broadest possible public and media involvement. It’s very important for the new Ukrainian administration to demonstrate an essentially different attitude toward the humanitarian sphere. All the previous governments have treated it on what’s best described as a residual basis, although the fact remains that this sphere, in its glaringly neglected state, may well prove to be of greater importance than the economy. Therefore, serious attention should be paid to personnel training and the living standards of all specialists engaged in the humanitarian sphere. It is also high time to resolve the problem of repatriating former deported ethnic groups to their historical homelands — first and foremost the Crimean Tatars — so that these people can integrate into Ukrainian society. In view of this, the Crimean Tatar Return and Accommodation Program is very likely to require adjustments that would facilitate a solution to this particular problem, so it can be removed from the agenda in the next five years. There are grounds for this, as only a small part of this ethnic group remains in exile, so by having these people return to their native land, we will have done our duty by them.
Mykhailo NEMOV, chairman, Khmelnytsky Regional Association of Businessmen and Industrialists:
The new government should start by settling the staffing issue, assigning decent and professional people to all posts along the executive vertical, always keeping in mind that our nation rebelled against a corrupt bureaucracy, against all those who personify the previous regime at the local executive level. What I mean is not a personal, discriminating approach but the principle of personnel selection. True, people who merit special recognition for their actions during the Orange Revolution should be awarded orders and medals, but this should not be a stepping- stone to any responsible position. The door should be shown to all those who are accustomed to hanging about in the corridors of power at all levels, buying or begging for some sort of benefits, positions, buildings, etc. Also, certain decisions that were made in the past should be revised. Acting Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko has already announced one such top priority. This task relates to the countryside, now facing the spring sowing campaign. All that talk about the onslaught of mice that are devastating winter plantings has acquired a symbolic meaning; our villages have been looted and hoodwinked. There should be strict control over every kopiyka allocated to assist our villages. It is crucial to ascert ain why in past years fuel and lubricant costs would suddenly jump on the eve of every such campaign. The way that our countryside lives and works largely determines the performance of our food procurement and processing enterprises. Here is an example. The cloth factory in Slavutych specializes in blankets made from Austrian wool, as no domestic raw materials are available, all our herds of sheep having long since been slaughtered. Let me tell you something every agronomist knows: the main thing during a sowing campaign is to stick to deadlines. The same applies to every governmental decision.
Valentyna KYRYLOVA, manager, Solomiya Pavlychko Osnovy Publishers:
The instinct of self-preservation, life experience, political immunity — I’m cultivating all this in myself after the long-awaited victory. I can hear voices whispering, “Don’t ask for too much, you’ll have fewer disappointments.” And I look forward to a genuinely new epoch in Ukrainian history, when all those who are vested with so much popular trust will remember this, rather than keep fighting for posts simply to satisfy their personal ambitions and to pad their private bank accounts with impunity; when there is a patriotic-minded team in power that can steer clear of internal feuds and the squaring of personal accounts. I reread The History of Ukraine and realized that my country will only become unique when no one on the outside can apply the saying, “Take three Ukrainians and get two hetmans.” Otherwise we’ll lose out again, all of us. I also dream of a higher living standard, and I believe that we’ll have it before long; that it will allow us to become apolitical, so much so that we’ll remember only two names, the president and the premier’s, and will do so with gratitude. These are my macrodreams. As a Ukrainian publisher, I want nothing better than to revive the book-publishing business in this country, no matter what it takes: drips, enemas, amputations, implants. We can only be finished off or revived.
Fedir STRYHUN, artistic director, Mariya Zankovetska National Academic Ukrainian Drama Theater (Lviv):
I’m primarily concerned about the theater. I think we need a clear-cut law on the subject. We must have clearly formulated payroll procedures for people employed in cultural organizations. This is the most important thing. Of course, I’d want our drama companies to have some financial capacities, even if on the smallest possible scale. I also believe that the new government should pay more attention to our companies’ touring opportunities, because they’re still stewing in their own juices. A drama exchange program would be a great asset in reaching an understanding. Then politicians would no longer be able to capitalize on the west-east differences-although I personally see no differences whatsoever. Also, we can hardly pride ourselves on the fact that our company hasn’t toured Donetsk for twenty-three years and Zaporizhia since 1983.