Thursday, November 18, 2004

Some positive signs?

Yesterday, President Kuchma made a public appearance where he defended the government’s economic policies against the attack on them by Yuschenko in the debate on Monday. In that debate, Yuschenko said

During my opponent's time in office, the average wage that they report grew by 42 per cent. The minimum wage grew 44 per cent. Taking into account that the minimum wage is 55 per cent of the subsistence level, as a rule, it is spent entirely on food, people's basic needs. I want to ask everyone to analyse one thing. Let us analyse how the lives of Ukrainians have changed over the last two years, based on only two things: food and wages. It does not matter whether it is the minimum or average wage. Please, look at the statistics.

If you were going to buy meat two years ago, in November 2002, before the arrival of Mr Yanukovych on the throne, your average wage would buy 36 kilos of pork. Now all you could buy is 22 kilos. If you were going to buy veal in December 2002, you could buy 44 kilos, but now you can buy only 25 kilos. Not to mention lard. Now you can buy 35 kilos on your entire [monthly] wage. Two years ago, before this government, you could buy 63 kilos of this product. Today you can buy 45 kilos of sausage, two years ago you could buy 63 kilos with your wage. Such product as eggs, today you can buy 140 eggs, two years ago you could buy 177 eggs. Milk, today you can buy 350 litres with one average monthly wage, two years ago you could buy 443 litres. It is the same figures for sunflower oil. As for petrol, now your average wage can buy 206 litres of A-95 type, two years ago you could buy 260 litres. If we look at diesel fuel, this is especially important for small and medium businesses, please, two years ago you could buy 354 kilos [as received] of diesel fuel. Today you can buy 225.

I have question to Mr Yanukovych and his team. How has the average wage become better for the average Ukrainian? Where is the GDP you can put on your sandwich and say that everyone has felt it? I think the main shortcoming here is that the authorities failed to grasp a simple economic concept. To make the people rich, you must get two things right. First, ensure that economic growth exceeds the rate of growth of wages and pensions. That is the first component. Second, maintain price stability. Then we will see affluent citizens. The current government and my opponent have not managed this. [Source: The BBC.]

Kuchma countered with his own statistics about people’s buying power over the last two years. And the lives of people have improved over the last two years there is no doubt.

But this is a good sign. To think that Kuchma feels the need to respond in public especially when one of the chief tactics in the debate was for Yanukovych to say over and over that Yuschenko told nothing but lies says something. Kuchma and his party felt like they had to counter these statistics in public and they tried to do that yesterday. Does this mean they are concerned with the people and what they might think? Maybe and maybe there is something of hope in this. But it may simply be vain men responding to an attack on something they have done. There is, however, no denying that they are responding to Yuschenko, doing it in public and doing it with more than “he lies!” This might be something positive.

And Yanukovych was on TV last night making his case again. This time it was in a round table discussion with two reporters (a triangular table discussion?) who alternated asking him questions. He looked relaxed and chatty and even personable. This was different than the somewhat aloof and even arrogant demeanor of the debates. Last night he was likeable. Maybe his appearance in the debates didn’t have the effect that they thought it might have and last night was an attempt to change that. If that is true, then that might be some other evidence that they are feeling the need to respond within the public’s hearing to affect public opinion. That might be another hopeful sign. But I am sure that the questions were vetted prior to Yanukovych’s appearance. And the female reporter didn’t look all that comfortable asking. (It could have been just me.) The government has a lot of power that it can bring to bear on TV stations and it has shown a willingness to use it. One local station has been threatened with a revocation of its license and even had its bank account seized by the government. It was released after the station employees went on a hunger strike. But this station has been the only station to have run stories that were unfavorable to the government, at least until now.

In what might be further positive news, last night a different local station broadcast a story about students in a city in another part of Ukraine being intimidated by the police when they were protesting on behalf of Yuschenko and some jailed Yuschenko supporters. The police approached six of the protestors, asked for their internal passport—everyone here has to have one—and then ripped out their residency page. (That contains information about where they live, something required by law.) That can cause trouble for these people who could be subject to jail time without it. But this was broadcast on the news last night. One story like this does not a revolution make, but it might be a sign of things to come. It might be.

But I come back, in the end, to how much powerful interests have to lose in this election. Yuschenko has declared what amounts to a war against those who are a corrupting influence on the Ukraine. Those are the men who hold power, both the power of government and the economic power of the nation. Can they afford to let someone win who has declared that he will rid the nation of them? I don’t think so. That is why I think all the stops will be pulled out to give Yanukovych the election. That he was defeated in the first round is nothing to get hopes up over. That made no difference in the final vote and could even have served to take some pressure off the government from the foreign sources of pressure, the US and the EU. “What do you mean irregularities? Yuschenko won that round didn’t he? If there had been the irregularities that you say there were, why then did Yanukovych lose? So there may have been a method to that madness. This sounds like a conspiracy theory and it is. But here that sort of thing can be real.

But these things might be reason for hope…maybe.

5 comments:

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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