Now that we are into October, it is time to talk about the issue of central heating. Urban central heating is one of the features of post-Soviet states. To my knowledge (and somebody please correct me if I am wrong) the United States does not use such a system, not even in giant public housing complexes. Thus, Americans may not be familiar with such a system. That is to say, Americans do have central heating (in many houses), but the heat comes from a boiler or furnace located in the house. And the fuel comes from delivery of oil or gas. Americans who live in apartment buildings (as I do) or even in giant public housing complexes, get heating also from a boiler or furnace that is in the basement of the building. Other people, for example people who live in trailer parks, get their fuel from propane. Either way, the onus is on the property owners to maintain the equipment and pay for repairs or replacements.
The system in Russian and Ukrainian cities is different. (I don’t know about rural areas, I’m just talking about the cities now…) These countries inherited from the Soviet system a centralized urban infrastructure called ЖКХ which stands for Жилищно-коммунальное хозяйство (“Residential-Communal Economy”) which, according to wiki:
“is an economic complex [of services provided by the government] guaranteeing the functioning of residential buildings and creating a safe and comfortable living environment for the people living there, the consumers…” Goes on to say that the services provided by the government include:
- Hot water
- Air conditioning
- Television, cable and internet
- Garbage collection
- Lightning rods
- Fire protection devices
- Construction and repair
- Road repair and cleaning
All of which are included in the rent; except that people have to pay a special tax to the government to subsidize these services. And that tax tends to go up every year!
No Hot Water In Kiev
As part of this package of services, sometime in August-September crews in the major Russian cities start driving around in big trucks, tearing up the roads, checking and repairing the pipes, making sure the gas is flowing, etc. Around October 1 somebody presses a switch, and Presto! the heat is turned on in all the buildings, including residential flats, which make up this system. If something went wrong and consumers didn’t get their heat and hot water, or the other services they are entitled to, then they would blame the government. Starting with the Mayor, and on up the food chain! And people need to know, that they would. Russians are known as the biggest complainers on this planet.
Ukraine, as a post-Soviet country inherited exactly the same system. And Ukrainians also know how to complain when things go wrong, but it doesn’t help them much right now, since the Ukrainian government does not have any money to continue this system in any meaningful format. So, today I have this piece which describes how the Ukrainian government is trying to ease its own burden of providing services to the public; and this ancillary piece which mocks Kiev Mayor Vitaly Klichko, when he suggested that every Ukrainian simply buy a coal-burning boiler. Like he did! One important thing people need to know about Klichko is that he is an ex-boxer who took one too many punches to what was already not such a great brain. He only got the job he has now, as Mayor, because that was Victoria Nuland’s decision (Klichko actually wanted the bigger job as President, but Vicky didn’t think he was ready for that), but that’s a whole n’other story, and I digress…
So, as mentioned before, the Ukrainian government is broke and can no longer afford to deliver these hereditary communal services to the population. They tried raising the ЖКХ taxes, but even that didn’t come close to paying for what was needed, especially the repairs on the aging infrastructure. In August, Vice President Gennady Zubko came out with a proposal to do away altogether with central heating. In other words, people would still get water coming out of their taps, but only cold water. Well, people have survived worse, I reckon, and the Ukrainians are said to be a tough lot. But the stinger is that Zubko and the other shills who run the Ukrainian government make it sound like all the problems lie with the people themselves: They are too greedy, too demanding. They are like a bunch of grown-up Oliver Twists holding up their Plus-Size bowls.
Zubko’s Big Idea is to have everybody buy their own coal-burning boiler. That way the government can save oodles of money and relieve itself of a major headache. The poor Scrooges wake up every morning with a headache: “How are we to repair all these rusty pipes in time for winter? Oh dear me!”
[to be continued]