Inconsistent reform on benefits and pressure on the court
Civic and human rights activists have criticized the government’s policy on reform of benefits and social guarantees. A roundtable entitled Truth and Myth about Reform of Benefits and Social Guarantees in Ukraine on 26 July run by the Centre for Public Advocacy, pointed in particular to the plan to give the Cabinet of Ministers authority to determine the size and procedure for receiving social guarantees and consequently revoke the norms presently setting these. The participants stressed that it was quite unclear what impact this would have on enforcement of court rulings.
There are presently hundreds of thousands of cases regarding social payments guaranteed by law but not provided for with public funding. These are effectively paralyzing the court system. There is no legal dispute involved in such cases, yet citizens, mainly elderly people, are forced to turn to the courts to stand up for their right to legally established social payments. Abusing the right to court redress, the Pension Fund offices are en masse appealing against court rulings in favour of the claimants through the appellate or cassation courts.
Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union informed that the government is not only trying to restrict social payments as much as they can, but is directly pressuring the courts. He explained that the Ministry of Finance had sent a letter to the High Administrative Court in which it called on the latter to formulate court practice on social cases which would ensure “budget stability”. He stressed that such letters constitute pressure on the court and interference in the exercise of justice.
The roundtable participants believe that the Law on Amendments to the Law on the State Budget for 2011 needs particular attention. This came into force on 19 June and gives the Cabinet of Ministers the above-mentioned right to determine the size and procedure for social payments to victims of the Chernobyl Disaster, children of the War and pensioners on the basis of the financial possibilities of the 2011 Budget.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has sent an appeal to the Human Rights Ombudsperson, Nina Karpachova asking her to send a submission to the Constitutional Court regarding the failure to comply with the Constitution of Item 4 of the Final Provisions of the Law on the State Budget for 2011. This Item was inserted via the 16 June Law on Amendments.
.The Director of the Centre for Public Advocacy, Leonid Tarasenko considers that instead of consistent reform of benefits, the government from time to time takes inconsistent and chaotic steps In this sphere. This includes effectively revoking them by giving the right to the Cabinet of Ministers to establish their size depending on the financial situation in the country, this violating the principle of legal certainty.
At present around 20 million Ukrainians receive some kind of benefits with around a third of the State Budget going on their financing. Over 50 legislative acts establish benefits and over 600 different types. According to various estimates, the value of the declared benefits comes to 19-29 billion UAH per year. The huge number of benefits for different categories of the public means that the budget is incapable of paying them to all those who are entitled.
A study in 2009 found that the number of professionally-linked benefits exceeded the number of those on social grounds. Public funding for professionally based benefits was also considerably better than for those on social ground. The Director of the Rule of Law Programme of the International Renaissance Foundation, Roman Romanov says that this refutes the myth that Ukraine is a social state and that social policy is aimed at supporting those on low income.