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Has the war changed “them”?

Three options for the Ukrainian superrich
12 March, 11:49
Photo by Ruslan KANIUKA, The Day

You can see with the naked eye that the oligarchic clan system has developed a huge crack. For this reason, not only the Ukrainian quasi-state, but also its biggest beneficiaries – the superrich and famous – are facing a formidable challenge today.

Unable to effectively reproduce itself in time, pseudo-property is gradually losing its capital value, depreciating, and ruining morally and physically. And, if coupled with governmental institutions, it corrodes the whole country. We have not only seen this disintegration – in reality, taking into account the laws parliament passed last week, we are “paying” for this process.

As is known, the oligarchic system of Ukraine came into being in 1994 and began to dominate in the 2000s, when oligarchs had seized most of this country’s industrial assets and had a dramatic impact on parliament and the government. This abruptly cut short a tendency towards economic growth in Ukraine.

It can be heard sometimes: oligarchs are not to blame, for the corruption-based pattern forces them to obey backstage rules. But who forced them? Is it not they themselves who decided to follow this slippery road? They want to get rich in the easiest way. The state needs the rich. But… There is a big difference between our rich and the rich in the Baltic countries and Poland.

The new team, which came to power owing to the gains of Maidan 2, “contented itself” with a victory over Yanukovych’s authoritarian system which denied freedom, democracy, and free entrepreneurship. Is this enough to crawl away from the abyss? Obviously not. Not to fall through, oligarchs should also essentially revise their “strategies.”

There are three ways to move on. Dmytro Firtash showed one of them last week. His option is to pretend that “big business” is not to blame for reducing Ukraine to the current condition. Like all the other volunteers and patriots, he is “prepared” to fund the salvation of the state – for example, to pay the world’s “best of the best” experts for telling Ukraine where to go. And, if necessary, this “team” is even ready to partly pay for Ukraine’s ticket.

The second option was shown the other day by Dnipropetrovsk Governor Ihor Kolomoisky. We would call this road an active battle on the domestic front of old problems. To do Kolomoisky justice, he has a team which is by far the most sensitive to societal sentiments. It is his second step in what we think is the right direction, although some, including The Day’s experts, still doubt his sincerity.

And there is the only way which none of our superrich still dare take – to voluntarily turn into socially responsible businesspeople, and begin to pay off debts to and eventually become allies of the people. This is what we call The Day’s option. It consists in deliberately turning the page of the 1990s.

For, as The Day’s editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna says, we are not interested in a remake of the “October Revolution” here under the flag of a third Maidan. This is why we are speaking about a civilized transition of oligarchy to civilized business. There will be no more chances to thrive off the stolen property.

The Day requested Volodymyr LANOVY, president of the Market Reform Center, ex-minister of economics, and ex-chairman of the State Property Fund of Ukraine, to comment on the current actions of Ukraine’s superrich and the prospects of each of the abovementioned ways of their “evolution.” Here is the commentary.

“Firtash’s initiative is a signal that he is present in Ukraine and influences its political and economic life. I expect no constructive programs for the state from him. Most probably, this will resemble what [Russian businessman and politician Sergey] Glazyev told us before: we gave the ‘ragged and barefooted’ Ukraine three billion dollars and will give another 12 billion. But where will this money go? We will be building SOMETHING.

“Besides, I am afraid that what Firtash is doing, with due account of his ‘guests’ and experts, is a signal of ‘bribing’ us into refusing to join the European Union. He hints he may find SO MUCH money that we won’t need to integrate into Europe. Russia still has a lot of money. Let us not forget that it is the world’s largest ‘laundry.’ They launder heaps of ‘dirty money.’ The ‘black cash’ comes to Russia and goes out of it as ‘investments,’ ‘banking loans,’ etc. These are usually used in political ‘projects.’ But what Firtash is doing is a political assignment. It has nothing to do with Ukrainian national interests. This is a task assigned by Moscow. It is my opinion.

“As for Kolomoisky, he is fighting for various items of property that either go bankrupt in the current economic situation or are subject to privatization according to the new plan of state property sales. Now those who have money, i.e. the holdings that have received National bank loans, are going to buy up the devaluing businesses. In a dollar equivalent, industrial assets and wages have plummeted in Ukraine. So, they are falling easy and attractive prey to those who have dollars. This triggers a struggle for these items of property. Poroshenko himself called for speeding up this process of privatization, and Kolomoisky is trying to take advantage of this situation. And, in my view, even his words that he is ready to return to the state what was illegally privatized are nothing but a publicity ploy.

“These are the games of oligarchs.

“For the nature of an oligarch is simple: they take all they can from the state and give back nothing – even if they give something back sometimes, they will get it ‘compensated’ tenfold later. It seems to me that our oligarchs are inclined to think today that the project called ‘Ukraine’ is drawing to a close and they must seize all that has still been left of it. And the state and the leadership are too weak.

“Oligarchs themselves can do nothing without the state’s help. Akhmetov’s case is the best illustration of this. When the law-enforcement system collapsed in the Donbas, he saw that, no matter how ‘strong’ he was, a bunch of ‘heisters’ could blow up his factory or make ‘demands’ to him.

“Of course, I generalize, taking into account the oligarchy’s typology and what we can see on the surface. We should not forget that there are also normal people who can take normal actions.”

The only thing left is to quote Winston Churchill whom many Britons still love: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

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