National Deputy of Ukraine: cost effective?
Ukraine’s Parliament is implementing some of the most stringent social and economic reforms in the country’s history, yet at the same time sees fit to increase the annual maintenance allowance for each Deputy to 700, 000 UAH – at Ukrainian citizens’ expense.
Ukraine is characterized by one of the highest international debts in Europe, a rapid growth of inflation and an unrelenting decline of the population's well-being and social-security. Nevertheless, the general budget of Verkhovna Rada was recently set at 980 million UAH - a 170 million UAH increase from 2010. The government has increased its allowance for travel expenses (from 7 to 9.5 million UAH) as well as the vacation budget, with 9 thousand UAH allotted to each Deputy for health resort treatment – the equivalent of six months living expenses for nearly 50% of Ukrainians.
It is worth noting that whilst their official salary is set at 17 thousand UAH (the average salary in Ukraine is under 2, 500 UAH) Deputies receive at least that amount again, every month, for ‘working expenses’ without any requirement to declare how the money was spent. One might question whether Deputies really need such a comparatively large salary. It is no secret that the primary appeal of becoming a people’s Deputy in Ukraine is either to protect personal business interests, or to act as an oligarchical proxy. For example Ukrainian Deputies Akhmetov, Zhevago and Verevskyi are named among the richest people on the planet by Forbes Magazine, with fortunes accounting for 16, 2.4 and 1.1 billion US dollars respectively. Whilst Ukraine continues to suffer some of the worst social and economic performance in Europe, Deputies show no desire to follow the example of the European Parliament, which froze expenses in 2010 in sympathy for the population suffering from economic crisis. However, in March the European Parliament increased legislators' expenses for assistants by 17, 800 Euro for each Deputy, which brought ordinary Europeans out onto the streets. For how long will Ukrainians be willing to fund the whims of their elected representatives?
People First Comment: Forbes magazine has named three Ukrainian deputies as being amongst the richest people on the planet with a combined personal fortune in excess of $19.5 billion. One of these three has been conspicuous by his absence from the Rada for most of the current convocation. Therefore one has to ask firstly why such wealthy individuals should be paid so much relative to the national salary level for their services and secondly what value they deliver to the nation to warrant such a salary. In the Soviet era there was always confusion over price and value. In the Russian language the same word is used for both as it was assumed that you got what you paid for. Warren Buffet’s description is more applicable ‘price is what you pay whilst value is what you get’. In this case it is fair to say that the people are paying too much and getting too little.
The profligacy of the current government belies an underlying contempt for the nation. They cut budget allocations for state salaries, social protection, healthcare and education by just enough to make sure that the people do not rebel whilst at the same time they increase spending on areas of personal enrichment and aggrandisement. This indicates that they have no morality, no concern for the public good and no intention of expanding the total wealth of the nation unless they have a direct interest. Ukraine has developed over the past 20 years not into a functioning democracy but from a fledgling democracy into a classic Oligarchy and if it remains unchecked it can only get worse as the protagonists fight it out for ultimate control.