A year after the start of the anti-Yanukovich and pro-European integration movement in Kyiv’s Maidan Square, the economic difficulties that have befallen the Ukrainian people since then are beginning to force them to actively protest in the streets. Whereas for the eastern Ukrainians this means war and destroyed homeland, for the whole Ukrainian population this means a two-time decrease in the living standard, a three-time rise in bills and a 100% drop in UAH rate.
The average Ukrainian, an advocate of European integration, has been touched to the quick – for instead of “cheap cars from Europe” (something he expected to receive in the first place), he has been given “Nuland cookies” “stuffed” with unemployment, unpaid wages, a two-time rise in USD exchange rate and neither heat nor electric power at home. And so, he has decided to take to the streets. It is hard to stop a “lame-brained Ukrainian” (as they call their own selves), especially when he is sensing danger for his personal savings and financial interests.
In Ternopil, the capital of a Western Ukrainian province and the most active supplier of “European integrators” to Maidan, several hundreds of teachers and trade union leaders from all over the region gathered in front of the local government building on Dec 4 to express their protest against unpaid wages and no more 20% bonuses. According to Ukrainian media, this is a general problem for the country: they have no more money for their teachers and doctors. After the protest action the Ternopil, authorities informed that they received just 50 million UAH for the whole region, while in order to be able to pay wages to teachers alone they need as much as 20.5 million UAH.
Teachers in Zaporizhia are facing similar problems: they have not been paid wages for three months already. In late November some 300 protesters against unpaid wages and high bills stormed the city hall in Kryvyi Rih, Dnipropetrovsk region. Things are even worse in Lviv region, the patrimony of the European integration concept, where almost each third resident has been left without a job. Vesti.ua quotes Director of the Lviv Employment Center Vasily Bariluk as saying that, officially, today, there are almost 23,000 jobless people in Lviv region (1,000 more than a year before, with 13-16 jobseekers per vacancy). Experts say that things in this field will get even worse and warn that this may result in mass labor emigration from the country.
Meanwhile, according to the draft budget 2015 (sent back for improvement on December 12 and to be reconsidered by the Rada on December 20), teachers, doctors, pensioners, Afghan war veterans and some other groups will have to tighten their belts. And they don’t even know to what a notch this will come as the document does not specify which benefits exactly will be cancelled. What they know is that education expenses will be cut by 20.2%, health care costs by 39.5%. This all may end in the Cabinet deciding to cut pensions, to raise the retirement age for military men from 45 to 65 and to make health care almost paid.
They have already approved a list of culture, health care and education organizations that will from now on be funded by local budgets. That is, de facto they will be left to themselves. The list comprises 83 hospitals, 88 branches of Dinamo, Spartak and Ukraine physical culture and sports associations and their facilities as well as 7 theaters.
It is noteworthy that despite high USD rate and inflation (as high as 20% this year), next year all pensions and wages for public sector employees will be left at the current level (if they are lucky enough not to lose their jobs at all).
How much will Maidan-2014 cost to the average Ukrainian is a still open question. But the fact is that its supporters and passive participants - all those who have bartered their homeland away for “cheap European cars” (though many of them were actually unaware or misled) - have now got a destroyed economy, a split and ruined country and a civil war. And this will hardly end soon to all appearances: the best outcome for the current war will be one more frozen conflict, with no communications between the East and the West and no investments in the economy. The pittance, like 1/10 of promised western assistance, will hardly be enough, while the attempts of the new regime to save on public sector employees and the middle class will inevitably lead to a new social outburst – Maidan III.
By Archil Oganov (Kyiv)