In the three years of his presidency, Viktor Yanukovych has failed to meet his election promises. Instead, he has offered Ukraine a slew of large-scale pseudo reforms and virtual national projects
“I guarantee that the share of government scholarships at state universities will be set at 75% by law”
Despite Yanukovych’s guarantee, Art. 23.4 of the Law “On Higher Education” requires state and municipal universities to enroll at least 51% of the total number of students under the government scholarship scheme. On July 18, 2011, MPs Andriy Pavlovsky and Oleksandr Sochka registered an amendment to replace 51% with 75%. The Party of Regions voted it down on December 6, 2011.
“Reduction in the minimum mandatory number of students in secondary schools, which will save 2,000 village schools”
In fact, the number remained at “at least five” students in a secondary school grade, while the number of schools continued to fall: by 300 in 2010/2011, 400 in 2011/2012 and 200 in 2012/2013. This was not directly related to the worsening demographic situation: the number of students in 2012 was only 7,000 less than in the previous year, but 400 schools were closed.
“I will ensure a gradual increase in government funding for healthcare to the European level of 10% of GDP”
Health care funding was 3.6% in 2010, 3.4% in 2011 and 3.7% in 2012.
“I guarantee good quality free emergency medical assistance”
After Yanukovych signed the Law “On Emergency Medical Assistance”, the reform of emergency medical assistance began on January 1, 2013. One of the results of this “reform” is that it can now take up to an hour for an ambulance to get to patients suffering from high blood pressure.
“I will increase government control of the quality of medical services and medicines. I will protect people from price fluctuations on the pharmaceutical market”
Meanwhile, many patients did not receive proper and timely treatment after authorities failed to purchase tuberculosis vaccines and hemophilia medication in a timely manner in 2011. In 2012, there was a shortage of antiretroviral therapy for HIV patients and drugs for children with cancer. On March 1, 2013, the Law “On Amending Some Laws of Ukraine on Licensing Imported Medicines and the Definition of the Term “Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient”” signed by the President came into effect, introducing the licensing of imported drugs. According to experts, this will result in the re-distribution of the pharmaceutical market and increase the price of good quality imported drugs.
In October 2010, Yanukovych stated that “we will finally be able to conduct an effective state policy to fight the corruption, which is currently a threat to the country’s national security”
The Law “On the Prevention of Corruption and Counteraction Against It”, passed on April 7, 2011, introduces the mandatory reporting of expenditures exceeding UAH 150,000 by officials and their family members. As requested by Party of Regions MPs, the Constitutional Court later cancelled the requirement for officials to report their 2011 expenditures. Overall, the new anti-corruption law was never really implemented in Ukraine. Among other things, the government does nothing to prevent corruption regarding land, courts, public procurement and more. In actual fact, corruption has reached a scale unseen over the past few years. As a result, Ukraine was 144th out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2012.
In December 2010, Yanukovych stated that pension reform is necessary to reduce the Pension Fund’s annual deficit of “nearly UAH 60bn”
As a result, the retirement age for women was increased to 60, and the years of contributory service increased to 30 for women and 35 for men. However, this did not help the Pension Fund, as the government simultaneously raised pensions, primarily for the target pool of the Party of Regions’ potential voters, before the 2012 parliamentary election. Thus, budget transfers to the Pension Fund hit UAH 64.5bn in 2012 and UAH 83.2bn in 2013. The trend is likely to intensify significantly in 2014, in view of the 2015 presidential election.
“Local self-governance should become a reliable and solid foundation of popular rule. I support decentralization and the reform of budget distribution in favour of local governments”
The past three years have not seen a single law to expand the powers of local governments. On the contrary, Yanukovych signed the Law “On the Capital of Ukraine” which essentially took power away from the elected Mayor and handed it to the Head of the Kyiv City State Administration, who is appointed by the president. Budget distribution in favour of local self-government also failed. 95% of local budgets still survive on donations from the central budget. The “reform” only had an effect in Kyiv where the Party of Regions and Yanukovych took away 50% of individual income tax, i.e. nearly UAH 8bn annually, essentially turning it into another budget-supported region.
“I guarantee the transfer to a volunteer military from 2011”
So far, Ukraine has neither a volunteer military, nor a clear strategy or deadline for creating one. Ex-Minister Dmytro Salamatin, forced into resignation in 2012, talked about 2017 as a possible deadline. Now, the Defence Ministry is talking about a gradual switch, whereby up to 7,000 volunteer soldiers will be enlisted by July 2013 at stage one; nearly 30,000 in July-December 2013 at stage two; and 3,000 more in 2014 at stages three and four. However, these are only promises so far.
“As a top priority, officers without homes will be provided with housing. I will introduce a procedure to provide accommodation for young officers within their first year of service”
According to experts, as of 2012, nearly 45,000 current army officers and 20,000 reserve and retired officers, Afghanistan veterans and families of soldiers killed while in service, had no housing. The 2013 budget provides UAH 12mn to build housing for the military.
“The government should make a large contract for the construction of social housing. 10 million apartments for young people, public sector employees, poor families and the disabled will be built over the course of 10 years”
To meet this promise, the government should have built 300,000 new apartments over the past three years. Instead, the number of families waiting for social housing decreased from 11,000 in 2010 to 7,000 in 2011.
In 2010, the then new government proudly presented ambitious national projects to provide visible improvements to the voters and the country overall within a short term. Vladyslav Kaskiv, as Chairman of the State Agency for Investment and National Project Management, was appointed to run national projects. The approaches and officials appointed to talk to the public about national projects immediately raised the suspicion that most of them would fail, while the funding that the government manages to allocate would land in the pockets of “the right people”. Indeed, as Viktor Yanukovych enters the fourth year of his presidency, “key” national projects are, for the most part, merely on paper, and very unlikely to be completed by the original deadlines.
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In his interview for The Ukrainian Week, Mr. Ilves draws parallels between transformations of the international order caused by Russia’s actions today and circumstances that encouraged the establishment of NATO and EU over 60 years ago, and between the presence of Russian troops on Ukrainian soil today and Soviet occupation of Estonia