Will the camp of tents be demolished or not? Entrepreneurs protesting against the new Tax Code were expecting this. As it is known, mass gatherings were banned from downtown Kyiv on November 22-26 by the decision of a Kyiv court. Therefore, participants of the action were expecting law enforcement officers already on Tuesday morning. Entrepreneurs stated they did not have any intention to leave the Maidan. They invented an original solution: they attached signs saying “reception room of people’s deputy” to the tents. The deputies they have in mind are Mykhailo Volynets and Yurii Hrymchak. According to the current legislation, no one can damage or destroy belongings of a people’s deputy.
After a gathering of ten thousand on Monday, about a hundred people decided to continue the protest, setting up a camp of tents. The protest action of Ukrainian entrepreneurs was also supported in Russia. However, the picket in front of the Ukrainian embassy consisted of one person, but in the Russian reality any protest is a bold act. The activist was standing with posters “Yanukovych, Ukraine is not a Moscow’s colony” and “Entrepreneurs, together we will win.”
The government already stated that it was ready to work on the suggestions of entrepreneurs. “We agreed we would consider all their suggestions. And we also agreed we would support their reasonable claims,” singled out the First Deputy Prime Minister Andrii Kliuiev.
In spite of this, when the requirements of the protesters were not fulfilled, as it had been stated before, entrepreneurs decided to initiate a referendum on the pre-term termination of the Verkhovna Rada.
The Day discussed this issue with Oleksandr DANYLIUK, head of the All-Ukrainian Center for Promoting Entrepreneurship:
“We understand that this path will take a lot of time, so we simultaneously collect signatures for the president, demanding to initiate a referendum at the citizens request, without the Central Election Commission, using presidential prerogative. Regarding the president himself: we submitted an application on gathering the same initiative group, which will be gathered on The Day of signing the code. At present we formed an extended National Coordination Council on the pre-term termination of the authorities of the president and the Verkhovna Rada. On Thursday there will be a sitting where not only entrepreneurs but also other groups of the population and organizations sharing our opinion will be present.”
You plan to stay at Maidan all this time?
“We expect to collect the signatures rather quickly. While we keep the organizational campaign, the government has the time to revise their attitude towards citizens. I mean not this specific government, but in general. To assert Ukrainian democracy, we should have the experience of recalling politicians who do not fulfill their promises. Even the Party of Regions has clever and capable people. But this is the decision of Bankova Street — which position it will take: for or against society. Today, facing reality, one can say this action is [mainly] for south-eastern Ukraine. People there are much more indignant than in western and central Ukraine. Because in the west or center people didn’t expect anything good from this government anyway. While the messages from Donetsk, Odesa, and the Crimea show that it is difficult to suppress these issues.”
What is your final goal?
“We try to stop, and direct in the constructive direction, the element which after the adoption of the Tax Code will obligatory lead to social unrest. We do not aim at destabilizing the situation, on the contrary, we try to organize things that are not controlled by high officials. We want to find a social compromise that will not allow the illegal solving of problems.
“In view of the fact that the methods of collecting unofficial taxes in the form of rackets return to our streets today, you can be sure people understand it’s the question of their survival. They remember the 1990s very well, they do not want to return to those years — they will stand to the very end.”
It’s not a secret that this code mostly protects big capital. Don’t you oppose oligarchs this way?
“We do not oppose any social groups. We want transparent rules, and for everyone to pay taxes. At present, we do not see protests of big business, so it means their interests are taken into account in the new code. Therefore, of course, this is an oligarchic Tax Code. We oppose the irresponsible, cynical government, which didn’t find the time to listen to the simple and logical requests of their citizens. We oppose the destruction of Ukraine’s economy, because any expert on macroeconomics will explain what can happen after entrepreneurs using the simplified system will disappear. No one will replace them. This means moving into the shadows, which our current government hopes for. In the worst case, we will have an economic collapse.”
Yevhenii HOLOVAKHA, deputy director of the Institute of Sociology, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine:
“The situation is ambiguous. One can understand the state as well. The contribution of small and medium businesses to the budget is very small. An immense threat of unemployment made the previous government introduce a simple procedure of small business development — the ‘single tax.’ It also had negative consequences connected with an insufficient control over their activity and minimal payments to the budget. So the reform was ripe by itself.
“But the essence of these protests is distrust of the government. Entrepreneurs do not trust the government because they are sure all these rules in the new Tax Code are meant not to improve the mechanisms of entrepreneurship regulation in Ukraine, but to completely subdue small and medium businesses for the benefit of big capital. And big capital is not interested in the development of small business. They are their real competitor, especially in a country like ours, where there is a struggle for rather poor consumers. Since big capital has a decisive influence on government, it is natural that the government can be guided by it and ignore the current protests, at the risk of facing even more serious protests in the future. In particular, it will influence electoral preferences.
“The protest actions by themselves must become a very important signal for the government. Such things must always be solved by means of public discussion with organizations representing the interests of small and medium businesses. Even the Ukrainian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs headed by Anatolii Kinakh (pro-government) criticizes this Code.
“All these organized activities are a form of social engagement and civic society. Because spontaneous protests have little sense in a situation when one needs not only to express one’s indignation, but also to revise state laws and regulations. In this case specific actions of NGOs representing the interests of protesters are necessary. The fact that these groups are formed is a good consequence of the current situation. This can also be a good example for other social strata. I think their interests are also infringed by certain state resolutions. The government must learn to find consensus with these organizations, which is normal practice in developed countries.
“In order to predict the outcome, it is necessary to analyze what motives made the government make such decisions. I already mentioned the first scenario: ignoring the interests of small and medium businesses, and the growth of protests as a result. Another scenario involves the government trying to find a compromise, taking into consideration the interests of the state budget, the prospects of economic reforms, and the interests of small and medium businesses. Then, I suppose, there will be no serious social-political consequences for the government. The situation is also aggravated by the fact that one must form the budget for the next year in view of the new Tax Code. Thus, the government is in a mess it made for itself. Therefore, at present, it is difficult to say what decision the government will make.”