Friday, December 15, 2006

Trouble brewing..

An article in the current 'Bez Tsenzury' provides some details of the battles raging in the Kyiv city council between the dreadful Mayor Leonid Chervonetskiy and the opposition over proposed three-fold and greater increases in housing and utility charges. Here are some loosely translated bits from it:

The opposition group "Democratic Kyiv" into which have entered fractions from 'Our Ukraine', BYuT, and the Klychko bloc, has initiated proceedings to cancel the proposed draconian tariff increases. However, as sources in KyivRada itself confirm, the 'democrats' position is shaky - to be in opposition to the present mayor is not simple. The majority of deputies who entered the KyivRada, have behind them several business-structures. As soon as these deputies start 'kicking up a fuss' the structures become the target of every possible kind of supervisory body. For example, this has happened with the leader of the OU fraction Dmytro Andrievskiy, who for more than a month now has been 'communicating' with tax men at his 'Kyivpidzemshlyakhbud' enterprise.

Chervonetskiy openly warned all deputies not stray from 'a general line': "I am preventing some leaders of 'Our Ukraine' from [approaching] the budgetary trough - they thought that after the elections and beyond, they would continue to slurp there."

The opposition has declared, that most of the money collected will merely enrich 'KyivEnergoHolding' [KEH] which according to the same opposition, is controlled by Chervonetskiy and his family. Today the turnover of the enterprises forming the holding is about 2,5 billion hryven [$0.5Bn]. After the tariff increases, the turnover will exceed 5 billion hryven. [KEH includes the companies 'KyivEnergo', KyivHaz" and KyivVodoKanal']

However, the chairman of 'KEH" Yuriy Bondar, has said that there are many chronic problems in the infrastructure that demand immediate attention e.g. repair of collapsed pipes, completion of a third block on Troyeshchyna power station, and so on.. But opposition deputy Volodymyr Bondarenko from the Pora fraction revealed that utility receipts provide for the maintenance of hunting lodges, recreational complexes, a dining room at 'KyivEnergo'; and 1,4 million hryven is allocated just to load up buffet tables and junkets.

According to one opinion poll, 57 % of Kyivites are not going to pay the new tariffs - and 69 % said they would support a referendum to sack Chervonetskiy.

In a 5-iy Kanal program on Thursday which is worth watching in full, Yuliya T. warns viewers that schemes are being put into place that will enable KEH to seize apartments of persons who do not pay up the increased tariffs, and so enrich themselves even further. She also admits that some BYuT deputies in the Kyiv city coucil have given in to temptation and bribes, and are now supporting Chervonetskiy.

At the same time in Eastern Ukraine, a spokesman for the executive committee of Lugansk city council stated that it has been compelled to skim off unsanctioned gas for which it cannot pay from the gas transport network. Only 23% of Lugansk consumers have settled outstanding heating charges, and only 18 % of bills for November have been paid to the the city power company 'TeploKommunEnergo'.

Looks like big trouble brewing..

ps Over the years I have been half-jokingly told about various schemes devised by domestic consumers to 'fiddle' their gas bills. Eg connection of a vacuum cleaners to the gas faucet to make the meter go 'in reverse', attaching spigots onto gas mains when the road is being mended, reversing the inlet and outlet end of the meter, using powerful magnets to slow down the rotation speed of meter mechanisms, and so on. Failing all of that, pulling out a bottle of vodka when the gas meter reader man comes around...

Several years ago an elderly lady from Lviv told me this story:
She was fed up with high gas bills and went to the gas utility company to complain. They asked her whether she had a gas meter. When she said she hadn't, the man told her, "Get yourself a meter, and the bills should fall dramatically."

She took his advice and had a good meter installed. But the next bill came - and it was even higher than before.

She stormed down to see the man at the gas utility company again. "You told me to get a meter to reduce my bills. I did exactly as you suggested, but the gas bill is even higher. What's going on here?"

The man calmed her down, and asked her, "Yes, but what kind of meter did you have fitted?"

"Why, a good one - a German one," she replied.

"Ah, this is no go good," and paused, adding, "You should have got a Russian meter."
[It sounds better in Ukrainian]


Anonymous said...

The sad thing about all this, is not so much the corruption (though that is bad enough) but that the inevitable debts for fuel will just give Gazprom an excuse to grab more Ukrainian assets.

The easiest way to avoid utility bills is to have illegal connections (ask anyone in Kosovo). You bribe somebody to cut you off and then reconnect you secretly. The meter readers (if there are any) can do it for a fee usually. Of course with gas that is even more dangerous than with electricity.

Anonymous said...

How bad is corruption with KEH relative to Ukraine overall?

It sounds like there really are some needed costs for repairs. Pora's fact-finding mission has not disproven that.

Maybe the opposition shd propose a reasonable reduction in the price increase?