Appeal from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union concerning Reform of the System of Social Subsidies
To: The Prime Minister of Ukraine, V. Yanukovych
The Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, O. Moroz
The Leaders of the political factions in the Verkhovna Rada
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union recognizes the need to increase tariffs on housing and communal services, but must note that these tariffs are not established in a transparent fashion, and the quality of the services in many cities meets no recognized standards. At the same time the state has effectively distanced itself from any measures to stimulate the development of energy-saving technology.
One of the arguments of public officials has been that the state should not subsidize those Ukrainians who were well off.
It has, however, also failed to prepare the necessary protection for poorer Ukrainians since the system for social subsidies is not transparent, clear or comprehensible to the average members of the public and the procedure for receiving subsidies is humiliating. As a result of this, thousands of people who are entitled to subsidies on the basis of their actual income do not receive them.
The system of social subsidies is lacking in transparency and is not understood by Ukrainians for the following reasons:
- There are at least 77 legal acts regulating these subsidies, while the given procedure is not regulated by any law, but merely by Resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and other subordinate legislation;
- Legislation fails to provide clear and understandable criteria for receiving subsidies;
- As a result of the previous points, the average Ukrainian does not understand his / her rights and has no idea whether s/he is entitled to subsidies.
The procedure for obtaining subsidies is degrading, with people being asked for vast numbers of documents which they spend hours in queues to receive. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that one needs to go through all this procedure to get the subsidies each year which could be prevented by introducing a system whereby people must inform the authorities of any changes in their circumstances.
In addition, there are indeed thousands of people who are entitled, on the basis of their level of income, to subsidies, but are deprived of the possibility of enjoying this right due to normative limitations which do not take account of the objective circumstances of their life* In view of this the UHHRU would recommend that Parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine take the following measures.
- Begin drawing up and adopting normative documents which safeguard a specific milieu in the area of housing and communal services, create a clear system for prices based on the amount of actually provided services. It is vital also to provide systematic encouragement for energy saving and conservation of national resources.
- Prepare and adopt as soon as possible a single law defining the basis and procedure for receiving state social subsidies. The subsidy should cover only the minimum necessary for life of the communal services and measures on resource conservation (introducing metres, repairs and reconstruction).
- Simplify the procedure for receiving subsidies through reducing the list of documents needed, providing a system where there is only one port of call and eliminating the procedure for annual confirmation of the right to subsidies at least for pensioners and people with first and second group disability status.
- Increase the minimum size of income needed to receive state subsidies, at least double the minimum normative standards enabling people to receive subsidies, in particular, with regard to the amount of living space per person and the ownership of land.
- With the participation of specialists, scientists and nongovernmental organizations, study practice on decisions to not grant subsidies, introduce amendments to normative acts, broaden the rights of bodies of local self-government to resolve issues regarding subsidies in special individual circumstances.
- Set as one of the priorities of the authorities in the area of housing and communal services a campaign to inform the population about their right to housing subsidies.
Without reform of the system of state subsidies, the rise in tariffs will lead to at least a 10 – 20% increase in the number of poor members of the population. According to the State Committee of Statistics, at the end of last year, 28% of Ukrainians lived below the poverty line. An increase in housing and communal charges will hit hardest not those people who are comfortably off, but those who are now hovering around the poverty line, this increasing the already existing divide between rich and poor in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
More information can be received from:
Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the UHHRU board
Volodomyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of UHHRU,
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is a nationwide association of human rights organizations which is made up of 23 Ukrainian civic organizations. UHHRU continues the work of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords (the Ukrainian Helsinki Group) formed in November 1976. It is a member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights which unites over 40 Helsinki Committees in Europe.
* the restrictions referred to are, for example, the limits of 14 m. living space per person or only 0.6 hectares of land for a dacha, etc. A special commission comes to determine how a person lives, and if they find, for example, a computer, they may arbitrarily decide against granting subsidies