Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Portnikov's dire prediction

I'm loosely translating a most gloomy 'end of term' report by the respected independent political journalist Vitaliy Portnikov, published recently in 'Leviy Bereg'.

Portnikov is well known as a regular, popular commentator on 'Shuster Live' and other television programmes. He is a 'Radio Svoboda' presenter, as well as being a prolific writer for Ukrainian and other language newspapers.

This is not a crisis. This is a collapse.

As the summer holiday season gets under way, PM Mykola Azarov is scaring his ministers and fellow countrymen with the world economic crisis and the potentially dangerous turns of events that will soon take place in the United States and European Union.

Translating his comments into everyday language indicates that Azarov and Co. intend to explain away Ukraine's own approaching economic problems by directing the blame elsewhere. But this time the crisis will primarily be Ukrainian, for the following reasons:

1. An inability and determined unwillingness by the incumbent President to discharge his duties properly. Viktor Yanukovych is focused solely on setting himself and his family up in the newly-conquered country, with 'Mezhiryas', helicopters and other bagatelle. He behaves like a typical African President from the 1960's and the 1970's, not having time for affairs of state and being more concerned with hunting lodges and diamond-studded toilets.

2. Incompetence of the Government and its inability to rise to the challenges of new times. The Government is staffed by 'old-school' officials such as Azarov, or contemporary oligarchs, busy lobbying their own interests and businesses. This symbiosis is practically paralysing the work of the executive branch and increases the costs, to crazy levels, of even reasonably intentioned projects, .

3. Total corruption amongst the authorities. If the modest official Vasyl Volga, takes a half-million dollar bribe, then what do the others take? I don't want to even think about this - but corruption has completely paralysed economic opportunities for small and middle-rank businesses and even put a question-mark against the survival of the country's population itself.

4. The commodity-linked nature of the budget-forming sectors of the economy make Ukraine almost totally dependent on the global situation, and this is deteriorating because of unfavourable trends in the economies of the West.

5. Deterioration of relations with the West because of authoritarian trends in internal politics, primarily the case against Tymoshenko. In such a situation, the country's borrowing is at risk, and the government has no money of its own.

6. Deterioration of relations with Russia because of the reluctance of Yanukovych to give up assets to Putin and to the Russian oligarchs. In such situation, new agreements on gas price cannot be counted on, again hitting the economy.

7. Degradation of the power structures. The prosecutor's office and the courts are used as tools to solve political problems and provide cover for business asset 'carve-ups'. The state security service [SBU] has become a holding company under the control of Valeriy Khoroshkovsky. The army in this country is an army of beggars.

8. Complete disinterest of state officials to rectify the situation. Yanukovych is occupied with the construction of helicopter pads [at his residences near Kyiv and in Crimea etc.], his nearest circle compromise him in the West and in Moscow in order to take his place, while the the middle circle compromise the inner circle in Yanukovch's eyes in order to take place of the inner circle. With the increasing crisis all these 'worms in the can' will start to shoot and jail one other. The detention of the Vasyl Volga is just the start.

9. Lack of coordination between the government and the National Bank of Ukraine, and the desire of each of these parties to consider only corporate, and not public interests. A similar situation was observed during Yushchenko's period in office, but with a small diffence. Yushchenko was a banker and least understood what was happening around him.

10. Disoriention amongst the general population, disillusioned with the authorities, but not seeing any alternatives to what is happening, making it impossible for serious reforms to take place.

This is not even a crisis. This is a collapse.

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