"The wrong country was named Honduras"
A ridiculous accident happened with one Ukrainian newspaper on the eve of the last presidential elections (in October 1999). Trying to present the national political and economic situation as having reached rock bottom, a journalist compared Ukraine with Latin America.
The reaction of the diplomatic corps was immediate: A Brazilian diplomat, in a very polite way, expressed his hopes that the paper was referring to the achievements that his country had archived after many difficult years. He was completely right in his indirect message—Ukraine could, by many parameters, only dream of being comparable with Latin American countries.
National and international statistics published last week have confirmed this truth. In the article titled "The Wrong Country Was Named Honduras," the online paper Ukrainiska Pravda presented results of the last economic research conducted by the Ukrainian Centre for Economic and Political Studies.
The figures terrify. 70 percent of Ukrainians are on the verge of poverty. Almost one million families survive on less than USD ten per month. Hourly payment of labour is fifteen times lower than the acceptable international measure of poverty.
"There are universal standards of poverty," says the newspaper. "According to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), people can be qualified as surviving under the verge of poverty when they spend less than four dollars per day. The World Bank considers those who have one dollar per day as living in absolute poverty. Few reservations in Africa and South America have such indicators. Maximum pension in Ukraine is nearly UAH 100."
A bit of mathematics: UAH 100 per months means UAH 3.3 per day. The present exchange rate is USD one to UAH 5.44. Through simple mathematics we get around USD 0,61 per day or USD 18.4 per month.
It is necessary to add that, on average, Ukrainian pensioners get UAH 75 [USD 13.7] per month and the regularity of payments differ in different regions of the country.
I do not have information on living standards in Honduras, which was also mentioned, but it has to be assumed that this Central American country might have, or in the near future will have, a reason for complaint similar to other Latin American states about negative comparisons between its economy and Ukraine's.
At least the level of corruption in Ukraine has already reached such depths that it is difficult to find many other countries that it can be compared with.
On Wednesday, the international organisation Transparency International published its regular rating on corruption. Ukraine achieved an honourable third place, unfortunately from the wrong end—it was no 87 out of 90. This means that Ukraine is third worst amongst 90 countries on the corruption index. Only Nigeria and the former Yugoslavia were worse.
As for other countries in Central Europe: Austria came in at (no 15), Estonia (27), Slovenia (28), Hungary (32), the Czech Republic (42), Belarus, Lithuania, Poland (43), Croatia (51), Bulgaria, the Slovak Republic (52), Latvia (57), Romania (68). Countries are ranked from the most fair (1) down to the most corrupt (90).
The only more or less positive outcome of this information for Ukraine is that Transparency International conducts its research in countries with favourable conditions for foreign investors. It leaves some hope—at least Ukraine is not yet excluded from this list.
Out of harm's way
Taking everything mentioned above into consideration, it is quite logical to presume that the question of government dismissal or presidential impeachment might be on the agenda. The first day of the fall session of the national parliament, 5 September 2000, was marked by the proposal of the national deputy Hryhory Omelchenko to include a proposal for President Leonid Kuchma's impeachment on the parliamentary agenda.
Together with another deputy, Anatoly Yermak, Omelchenko submitted a draft resolution "On initiation of the issue of impeachment of Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and on setting up a special ad-hoc investigation commission to examine the activities of Kuchma in the posts of prime minister and Ukrainian president."
A member of the parliamentary "Anti-mafia" group Omelchenko says that he wants to be sure that the Ukrainian President is legally clean in the eyes of the nation and world community. However, he accuses the President of being involved in some unfair dealings that have criminal features. For example, Omelchenko blames Kuchma for keeping former Prime Minister Lazarenko in office when confirmation of the corrupt actions of the latter had already been widely discussed.
Extracts of the draft resolution published by the Kyiv Post say that, "beginning from December 1994, Kuchma continued to appoint former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko to responsible posts and awarding him," while law-enforcement agencies found that "the total damage done to Ukraine by Lazarenko and his companions exceeded USD one billion, while experts estimate that he stole from Ukraine and hid in foreign accounts around USD two to ten billion." Omelchenko is sure, and says that such idea is shared by experts that "it is impossible to steal such a sum without the head of state knowing this and approving it," the Kyiv Post reports.
However, impeachment was not included in the parliamentary agenda. Despite the complexity, almost impossibility, of the formal and legal realisation of the President being impeached (constitutionally this is a very long procedure which involves different authoritative organs), the first step has to be taken by Parliament; 226 out of 450 deputies must support a proposal if it is to be put on the agenda.
The initiators of impeachment were only supported by 140 members of Parliament, mainly from the left opposition. This number does not mean, however, that the rest of Parliament is against impeachment and disagree with the accusations against Kuchma. Only 64 national deputies voted against the inclusion of the question onto agenda. 121 out of 330 deputies registered in the session hall that day...did not vote. "Did not vote" does not mean that they abstained, no, they did not vote at all. "Out of harm's way," Ukrainska Pravda concluded.
Natalya Krasnoboka, 15 September 2000
- Archive of Ukrainian news reviews
- Browse through the CER eBookstore
- Buy English-language books on Ukraine through CER
- Return to CER front page
Den', daily national newspaper
Kyiv Post, weekly national newspaper
Facty, daily national newspaper
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
UA Today, on-line information agency
Ukrainska Pravda, on-line independent