Another Ukrainian-themed post today. The headline here: Today (July 6) in Kiev people are marching (most sources say, around a couple of thousand people) to protest the raise in taxes and utility fees. The protesters moved in two columns through the streets towards the Parliament Building (the Rada).
Some raw numbers: Effective July 1 (a few days ago) the new rates kicked in. The cost of hot water (for people living in flats) almost doubled, going up to 77 hryvnas per month (approx. $3 American dollars). By November, though, just in time for winter, a true “cold shower” is being prepared for the people: The cost of heating a one-room apartment will go up to 1,561 hryvnas (approx. $63 dollars). Put this in the context that the average monthly salary for a person living in Kiev is 6,900 hryvnas (approx. $278).
Marchers carried signs such as “Higher European Prices? – Higher European Salaries!”.
Individual marchers were quoted emitting sound-bites such as this one:
“We are being forced to spend our entire salary on communal services, how are we supposed to go on living?” In response to price hikes, protesters demand that the government raise the minimum monthly wage to 3,067 hryvnas (approx. $123).
Today’s march is in response to the Ukrainian government delivering “shock therapy”, as prescribed by Doctor IMF — to his most beloved patients, i.e., Ukrainians. By forcing these “moochers” (I’m talking like a Randite banker now) to pay “their fair share” of taxes and utility bills. In return for the more-than-generous loan tranches dished out by generous Uncle World Bank. As ordinary Ukrainians say, the bankers of the world are literally squeezing the life out of them. Like some kind of anaconda wearing a suit and tie.
But how did Ukraine end up in this pickle to start with? Well, it’s a long story. Almost like a twisted Biblical parable. Emerging from the Soviet break-up with a not-too-shabby set of assets: infrastructure, industry, manufacturing, agriculture, land, seaports, literate and educated population, a high GNP. And then, in 25 years of “independence” to descend to this pathetic level. How could so much wealth be squandered in so little time? Well, this is what happens when greedy oligarchs use the government like their personal trough.
Given this awful state of affairs, there is not much that Ukrainians can do now to improve their desperate lot. Marches such as this one today are mere kabuki theater.
Opposition Hopes To Gain From People’s Pain
As with everything that happens in Ukraine, there are political actors pulling the strings. There is no such thing as a spontaneous march of people demanding their economic rights. This march was organized by Opposition Parties (who are also owned lock stock and barrel by millionaire oligarchs) hoping to gain more political power from the sufferings of ordinary people. So, who are these “populists” who now step forward declaring themselves to be the saviors?
First Oleh Lyashko, of course. The leader of the Radical Party was quoted as saying: “In the latest history of our state, Poroshenko and Hroisman will go down in history as the authors of Tax Genocide.”
Lyashko continues: “The price which the government has set for gas – $7,000 hryvnas for 1000 cubic meters [$286 equivalent] is a corrupt and unfounded price, and the government is feeding off of this.” Lyashko suggests a fair price of 1,580 hryvnas. He also recommends that all natural gas produced in the Ukraine should go for domestic needs. [instead of exporting to Europe?]
Not to be outdone in populist rhetoric, Batkivshchina Party leader Yulia Tymoshenko has demanded that the government abolish taxes on pensions, lower the price of gas, and offer subsidies to wage-earners and pensioners. Tymoshenko claims that there is money for this in the budget, but excessive amounts are being spent for the military.
Tymoshenko and Lyashko appear to be operating as allies in the latest shenanigans in the Rada, like blocking the tribune, that sort of thing. Naional Savior Nadia Savchenko has also become a factor (more likely tool) in this role playing.
It has been reported that Prime Minister Vladimir Hroisman has met with representatives of the ten largest trade unions of the country, to discuss the grave situation which has developed. The trade unions may in fact be able to obtain some relief for their members, perhaps a slight loosening of the garotte as it tightens around the neck of the Ukrainian nation as a whole.