11.06.2012 | Halya Coynash

Too high a price for football


Ukraine has no facility for lifesaving bone marrow transplants for children.  Nor will it in the foreseeable future for a brutally simple reason: the government has channelled money into the Euro 2010 football championship.

Public protest on 1 June (International Children’s Day) over a recent Cabinet of Ministers decision to use 200 million UAH earmarked for the vitally needed new part of the Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital prompted a flurry of denials from Prime Minister Azarov, Deputy Prime Minister (responsible for Euro 2012) Kolesnykov and the Health Ministry.  Kolesnykov’s assertion that the construction of part of the Oxkhmatdyt Children’s Hospital “is included in the Euro 2012 program” was baffling, but at least succinct.  The other statements were a labyrinth of words.  It is considerably harder to get lost reading the actual Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 443 from 21 May 2012.  

This states that “the Cabinet of Ministers has decided 1) to transfer 200 million UAH budgetary allocations envisaged in 2012 for the Health Ministry in the general fund of the State Budget for Program 2301820 “Construction of a modern diagnosis and treatment complex within the Oxkhmatdyt National Children’s Hospital” to the National Agency for Preparing and Holding the Final Part of the Euro 2012 Football Championship in Ukraine and the sale of infrastructure projects under the Program 6651250 “Implementation of the State Targeted Programme on Preparing and Holding the Final Part of the Euro 2012 Football Championship in Ukraine”.

Wordy, yet surely clear who is losing the vital funding and who will receive it.  The remaining items in the Resolution are merely about carrying this shameful transfer out.

Countries compete for the chance to host sports tournaments for two reasons. With calls to boycott the matches in Ukraine because of political persecution of the opposition and warnings about racism, the less said about the good image motive, the better.

Any words about benefit to the economy are also hollow.  Huge amounts of money have apparently been spent, vital green areas such as a large area of Gorky Park in Kharkv illegally felled supposedly as part of Euro 2012 preparations.  In many such cases those who have directly benefited can be difficult for the public to gauge; those who lost out clear - ordinary Ukrainian citizens

Especially badly affected have been socially vulnerable groups in society who have already suffered from cuts in social benefits, as well as rising prices, communal charges, etc.  Such problems are being faced by most European countries, and Ukraine’s social security system is desperately in need of reform.

Reform, however, is needed to revitalize the country’s economy and ensure that its citizens have a decent standard of living.  Not so that the political elite can make fortunes from lucrative privatization deals and enjoy a standard of living increasingly far removed from that of most Ukrainian citizens.

Court cases aimed at wrenching out information about taxpayer-funded elite housing and privileges for officialdom and MPs’ income have been lodged, with some being rejected at all stages in domestic courts, leaving yet again only the European Court of Human Rights.  Perusal of the public information which cannot be concealed suffices to show that the President, his Administration, MPs and other high-ranking officials have no problems supplying money for their own comfort..

Many are known to be great football fans.  Like a lot of the children who so desperately need proper medical treatment, and whose lives are on the line. 

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