Friday, January 17, 2014

It's terrible. But is it new?

Crises are moments of Truth and Justice, with capital T&J. In times of crisis you can't pretend anymore. The time of windowdressing is over. You have to reveal yourself. Yesterday was the moment of Truth and Justice of the "lawmakers" of the Party of the Regions and the Communist Party. Actually there were two moments. The first, the revolutionary, Leninist spirit in which the Verkhovna Rada killed the rule of law in Ukraine. The second, much less noticed, is the publication of the World Bank report on Ukraine. The second speaks the truth of the first.

In what must be their finest hour the "lawmakers" of the Party of the Regions and the Communist Party showed what they essentially are: lawbreakers. In hardly an hour they approved, without debate, the 2014 state budget, and cancelled the rule of law in Ukraine. The chairman of the Party of the Regions had the guts to claim that it was in full accord with European principles. But I was at the Office of the European President this morning. And it is very clear that he, and other prominent European politicians, like Catherine Ashton, don't agree, to put it mildly. In stead it is the other way around. The finest hour of these "lawmakers" was a flagrant violation of European principles of justice, rule of law and good government. But, let's face it. It is terribile, it is serious, it is dangerous. But is it new?

Of course it isn't. The PoR and Communists made public what every - and I like to stress 'every' - Ukrainian in his or her heart knows. They showed what they essentially are: lawbreakers, corrupt politicians, not interested in justice, but self serving, using the law and the state to serve their own interests. When I came for the first time to Ukraine in 2007, we made a tour on the Dnjepr. Our guide pointed at the east bank of the river, where a lot of building activy took place. "Look, that's where our nouveau riche are living, our politicians." I thought of our most famous prime minister, Joop Den Uyl, who lived in a very modest street in Amsterdam Buitenveldert. It was cristal clear that you could only afford a villa on the east bank of the Dnjepr, if you used your position in parliament for your personal gain. If you took bribes. If you saw politics as trade. 

Again, this is nothing new. It's a public secret. The World Bank report, Ukraine. Opportunities and Challeges for Private Sector Developmentpublished yesterday, confirmed this secret. The World Bank showed that the current political practice is also devastating for Ukrains economy and the wealth of every Ukrainian citizen. Let's quote the report: 

"Ukraine GDP per capita still lingers below 1989 levels and at a mere 10 percent of the European Union average after twenty years of transition. Incomes have increased much more slowly in Ukraine than in the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region as a whole. Ukraine has also been under performing relative to regional peers, such as Poland, Romania, Russia and Belarus, especially during the recent global crisis, registering a decline in GDP by 15 percent in 2009. Despite similar starting points at the beginning of transition, Poland’s and Ukraine’s income levels, for instance, have diverged over the years: income per capita in Poland is now almost four times higher than in Ukraine. Growth projections suggest that the income gap between Ukraine and its peers will not be closed in the short term."

The causes of this economic tragedy and the main constraints to private sector development, are, according to the World Bank, weaknesses in the regulatory environment, limited access to financing, and lack of competition. On the regulatory environment Ukraine continues to suffer from excessive red tape, poor implementation of business regulations, and weak public sector governance. But above all: the private sector will not fulfill its potential without progress in fighting state capture and corruption, thoroughly improving the juridical system and seperating it from state interests and the oligarchal plutocracy.

Now this may look rather futile compared to yesterday's undeclared state of emergency. But it makes sense to stress three points. First, yesterday's lawmakers did nothing new. They just did, in a moment of political crisis, what they are used to do, but only more obvious. We can speculate on their motives, but I would suggest that they feel they are loosing ground in Ukraine. They realize that their credibility is close to zero. They just gave up pretending. They showed in public what they truly are. Second, the current government and autoritairian politics does not only destroy the rule of law in Ukraine. It is not only a threath to civil liberties, but it is also devestating for the economy. It ruins the chances of a prosperous life for the children of Ukraine. Third, it unmasks the Russian loan mythe, that it will rescue Ukraine. It will harm the economy of Ukraine even more. Just as the World Bank stated: income per capita in Poland is now almost four times higher than in Ukraine. I don't have to remember you that Poland is a member of the European Union...

So, serious and dangerous as it may be, yesterday's finest hour of the "lawmakers" is nothing new. They were robbed of their clothes, and it is Euromaidan that did the job. It very well could be their weakest hour. If Euromaidan will do what it should do, but untill now fails to do - create a strong 'antipolitical' civil society - then January 16, 2014 will go into the records of history as the swansong of the post-soviet robber politicians.

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