Friday, June 01, 2007

Sense in the political maelstrom

I quite enjoyed reading this article in 'Kyiv Weekly', entitled Political showdown "Ukrainian style - senseless, yet compromising"

Here are some portions:

Unlike in the fall of 2004, Ukrainian citizens today prefer to remain on the sidelines as "observers" of the political games. Representatives of the coalition and the government already on the second day after the president’s decree on the dissolution of the Verkhovna Rada confused society with a warning that the economy may soon collapse and threatening that social programs would not be fulfilled. In reality, everything was the other way around.

The economy has positive growth indicators: GDP growth in January-April was 7.9%, industrial output – 12.5% and investments into fixed assets grew in Q1 by 33%. These figures point to two facts.

First of all, as long as the prices of metal on world markets remain high, no political crises will threaten the Ukrainian economy – unless of course a civil war breaks out. Incidentally, industry experts forecast a drop in the price of metal products exported from Ukraine in June 2007.

Secondly, it is evident that there is a gentlemen’s agreement among the political echelon to not interfere in the businesses of political opponents. This shows that some lessons were learned from the re-privatization campaign of 2005. The economic basis for such a compromise is the sufficient amount of state-owned assets that may be soon put up for sale, not to mention the possibilities of "feeding" off the budget.

As paradoxical as it may seem, Rinat Akhmetov and his large private business are the economic foundation of the "party of peace" (i.e. that which agreed to holding early elections), while those politicians who control the budget (Finance Minister Mykola Azarov and VR Speaker Oleksandr Moroz) represent the "party of war".

Despite the waning authority of the political elite, Ukrainians do not seem to show any desire for an "iron-fisted leader" coming to power. This essentially puts society in first place in terms of dialog with the government and business and means that the current political crisis is making room for a civil society in Ukraine, not one that continuously seeks grants, but one that controls and directs governance.

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