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Ihor Yukhnovsky speaks about Ukraine and challenges it faces
Ihor R. Yukhnovsky, Ph.D. in theoretical physics, has been a member of parliament of all convocations since 1990.
Mr Yukhnovsky, a founder of the Lviv scientific school of statistical physics, has authored over 400 scientific papers, five books and a textbook, Osnovy kvantovoyi mekhaniky (Basics of Quantum Mechanics). As an MP, he put forward over 100 bills (some of them jointly with other MPs); he was one of the authors of the Act of Proclamation of Independence of Ukraine. Since April 3, 2003, he has been chairing the Verkhovna Rada Temporary Future Issues Commission which was set up following his initiative.
Mr Yukhnovsky is a recipient of several state honours and prizes; among them — Za zasluhy (For Merit) Order; Yaroslav Mudry Order; Title of Hero of Ukraine.
Ukraine has entered its fifteenth year of independence facing problems which are hardly less challenging than the ones she faced back in 1991 when she regained her independence. Ukraine continues to build up its statehood but different political parties and blocs of parties give different assessments of the current situation, and offer their own solutions to the problems.
Ihor Yukhnovsky, an academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, a member of parliament and an influential political and public figure, shares his thoughts and views with Welcome to Ukraine Magazine.
Internal policy issues
In the opinion shared by many, Ukraine is still in the transition from socialism to capitalism, and this fact has a direct and massive impact on the economic, political and social situation in Ukraine. It is a general assessment. Do you have any particulars to add?
The times when the state economic policies were implemented by the top managers of big factories and other enterprises are in the past. The so-called “red directors” [that is, top managers who, in the soviet times, also used to be top managers and were members of the communist party — tr.] were pivotal figures, on whom so much depended. These days it is not the top managers but the owners [of the enterprises] who determine the economic policies of their enterprises, and their top managers, employees and workers are hired to do what the owners tell them to do. What an owner wants in the first place? To get as much profit as possible. Earlier, the top managers of the state-run enterprises were responsible for the prime cost and had at their disposal certain amounts of additional means which were necessary for the further development of their enterprises. All the money these enterprises earned was sent back to the state budget. Nowadays, every owner wants to get as much out of his or her property as possible. The more an enterprise is competitive, the more successful it is. The anti-monopoly policies of the state are supposed to regulate this competitiveness. On the one hand, the state should encourage competition, but on the other hand the Anti-Monopoly Committee should see to it that no too powerful owners appear on the market.
Is this system working?
Not quite, since the anti-monopoly function is lagging behind.
Is it a conflict situation? And what are possible ways of solving this problem?
The thing is that in a society which is in transition, a system of balances should be formed. One of the mechanisms that has a direct and constant influence upon the forming of this system is legislation. In this system of balances we should find coexisting the public system of workers and employees, of managers, of intellectuals, of owners and of the office of the procurator general. This office should be a watchdog on the laws being observed. And it is only under the condition of the democratic development of society. In its turn, the establishment of balances and freedom is linked to the functioning of the branches of power in the state — the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judiciary branch. In order to be functioning well, this system should be patriotic.
You don’t mean the emotional expression of patriotism at political rallies, do you?
I’m talking about patriotism as a voluntary, from the point of view of an individual citizen, restriction of his or her freedoms for the sake of freedom of other members of society. Patriotism of such kind, in my opinion, emerges under conditions of certain moral principles being established in the state, one of which is what is called in the world nationalism. Nationalism not in that meaning which is unpropitious for our society, but in the meaning of respect for one’s native land, respect that ennobles every thinking being, pride for one’s native land, loyalty to its people. Time has come in the course of building up the Ukrainian state when normal state nationalism should be promoted — it is on such nationalism that patriotism is based. There can exist, of course, a state which is based on compulsion, coercion and fear as it was, for example, in the Soviet Union, but such a state is isolated from the rest of the world and eventually disintegrates. That is why a democratic state should be open. It was president Yushchenko who suggested that Ukraine develop along such lines. The present government is doing its best to give every citizen maximum freedom in all the spheres of life, starting from business and going all the way to the civil liberties. A lot of effort is spent on resuscitating patriotism which has not only an important humanitarian significance but also a very important sociological and a very important economic significance. The essence of such patriotism lies in every patriot taking upon himself or herself the duty of promoting everything that strengthens their country and makes the laws supreme.
Should not these issues have been raised at the very start of Ukraine’s independence rather than in the fifteenth year of its sovereignty?
Yes, but without fully comprehending the importance of these issues it is not possible to be moving forward. In order to live through this rather complicated period and take steps forward, it is necessary to rally around the president who was legitimately chosen by the people. It is understandable that this fact causes a corresponding reaction of the opponents to the current president and his entourage who, unfortunately, have made quite a few serious mistakes, especially in the sphere of choosing the right people for the right jobs in government.
Could you be more specific?
At first, Viktor Yushchenko madeYuliya Tymoshenko prime minister. It should take into account that during the presidential election campaign, the then premier Viktor Yanukovych did a treacherous thing which had ruinous consequences — he increased pensions up to 284 hryvnyas a month at one go. It threw Ukraine into a financial pit, a financial stupor, out of which it was very difficult to crawl, and it caused a sharp deterioration of the economic situation in Ukraine, it caused the price hikes for essential goods and staples. I want to emphasize here that it was no doubt Yanukovych who provoked the crisis in Ukraine by his dilettante policies and populist adventurism. Viktor Yushchenko and his team, prime minister Tymoshenko and finance minister Viktor Penzenyk in particular, had little else to do but to make the new level of pensions legal and add 50 hryvnyas more, thus bringing the pensions up to 334 hryvnyas. As a result, the pension fund faced problems, and the government had to look for ways of getting additional 30 billion hryvnyas into the budget. Yuliya Tymoshenko had to introduce considerable restrictions in the taxation system in order to get as much money as possible into the budget. The government managed to do that but, naturally, it led to the further decline of production. It is also clear that Viktor Yushchenko had to dismiss the government because the decline in the economy could become dangerous and this slide had to be stopped.
Was Yury Yekhanurov chosen because he was more predictable?
Yes. But in any case there should not have been any squabbles, the unity should have been preserved. Clearly, the President should have acted more decisively, he should have explained to his supporters that Maydan [Maydan, the central square of Kyiv, has become the symbol of the Orange Revolution and of the ideals it stood for — tr.] is one thing and running the state is quite another thing. An entirely new life begins in the post-revolutionary period…
What hinders the consolidation of society in Ukraine?
There are many factors, most of which were called into being by the enfolding political reform. Take, for example, the problem of forming the entourage of the President, or as it is now most often referred to the “team” of the President. Earlier, the President had much more power and his entourage took some of this power for itself. Now we have a new constitution (with amendments advocated mostly by the Socialist Party leaded by Oleksandr Moroz — ed.) which takes the power from the President. Following these new developments, a contradiction arises among those groupings that stood by Yushchenko’s side on Maydan. Everyone thinks that they are more clever than others and can take the power into their hands. And this elementary mutual excitement which finds expression in often not carefully considered assessments, offensive statements directed against each other, all of this has led to the creation not just of groupings but camps at war with each other.
Are the problems that the current government has to solve more acute than those that the previous governments had to deal with?
The previous order was bad in that the administration [staff — tr.] of the president controlled both the president and the country. The new order is bad in putting great responsibilities on Verkhovna Rada which is not properly structured and which does not have a clear-cut strategy of action. The number of duties that parliament will have now is so great that this body will not be able to carry them out in a normal way. A number of new duties are added to the ones that Verkhovna Rada had before, the most important among them those connected with the appointment and dismissal of top ranking government officials.
Does it mean that Verkhovna Rada will be able to control every government minister?
Precisely so. There are many people in parliament whose attitude to the leaders of this country and to the problems it faces differs significantly. All this will lead to such a disorganization in the work of parliament that I think that Oleksandr Moroz will be very sorry that he initiated this process.
Foreign policy issues
So far we’ve been talking about issues of Ukraine’s internal policies, but the way they develop depends, to a great extent, on the foreign policy Ukraine exposes. Which steps, in your opinion, should be taken to make Ukraine an integral part of the European and world community?
Let’s start again from economic problems. If you introduce a sharp increase of pensions for 14 million people with low incomes, then what you get is a sharp increase in demand for the essential goods and staples. These goods and food will become more expensive and this is what we actually observe. (But they will not become too expensive for Ukraine to be plunged into an economic chaos.) There is only one civilized way that we have to foster well-being — it is to increase the amount of means in the Pension Fund. And this in its turn can only be achieved through raising the wages. But if the wages rise, then the demand for goods also rise. This, inevitably, will lead to price hikes.
Do you see a way out?
It lies in having Ukraine integrated into the world community. The item of high priority on our agenda is joining the WTO. When it happens, the European prices, including the prices for food, will automatically become Ukrainian prices.
What about wages?
Now we have an opportunity to bring up the labour productivity and the wages to the European level. So we have a sort of a vicious circle — in order to increase pensions we have to raise wages, and in order to prevent inflation we have to join the WTO. That’s a way to European prices and wages.
What about membership in other international organizations?
NATO is the number one priority. All that we’ve had with Russia in the past fifteen years is characterized, in the first place, by the transit period with all the corresponding conclusions drawn from this. Russia has its own energy supply and Ukraine does not. Russia sold Ukraine oil and natural gas at low prices and thus kept Ukraine in check. But it came time when Russia told Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries that they should pay higher prices. Those who cannot pay high prices should offer political concessions. Ukraine — and no only Ukraine — is forced, take it or leave it, to let Russia have its natural gas transit system. It is nothing else but a pressure on Ukraine that Russia exercises from the position of strength. It means that Ukraine must be strong militarily. Can Ukraine become strong in isolation? Of course not. But Ukraine must be protected. How to protect her? By joining the European defensive union — NATO. It automatically gives Ukraine a guarantee of security.
Can you say a few words about Ukraine and the European Union?
The European Union is a much more developed system than the Russian Federation. We must move in the direction of a more perfect system. Moving towards the EU is vitally important for us because the development of our economic complex needs it. All these directions which I have mentioned are inherent in the course which has been proclaimed by President Yushchenko. As a leader of our nation, he directs himself towards democracy and a civilized future for the Ukrainian people. That is why all the democratic forces should rally around Yushchenko. That is why I myself as a politician and as a citizen stand for the support of the Nasha Ukrayina (Our Ukraine) Party regardless of my liking or disliking some members of this party. Yes, quite a few mistakes have been made. Evidently, some of these mistakes could have been prevented. But maybe not. Another thing is important. President Yushchenko and his team offer such policies which are aimed at achieving prosperity for Ukraine.
Photos are from Ihor YUKHNOVSKY’s archive[Prev][Contents][Next]