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Project for freedmen: Why Condoleezza Rice has compared Ukraine with Liberia

It has been a relatively easy job of late to tell a highly (and not very highly) ranked foreign guest in Ukraine. All foreigners - whoever they are and whatever they come for – advise the Ukrainians what to do.

Condoleezza Rice did the same when she came to Kyiv to give a lecture on challenges of a changing world. The former US Secretary of State was invited by billionaire Viktor Pinchuk and was supposed to talk to students only. But the recommendations she made in her lecture concerned all the Ukrainians. Rice advised them not to get disappointed with their regime and not to communicate with people showing hostility to democracy. She also obliged each Ukrainian to take responsibility for democracy in his/her country. And in the end she recommended all those displeased to go to Liberia just to see that it is good to be Ukrainian. Rice must have forgotten that in the 19th century Liberia was a US project for freedmen. Quite a gloomy comparison for the present-day US project – most-Maidan Ukraine. Rice has got her money and has gone back home, while Pinchuk will certainly have to pay for her words.

It will not be just disappointment, it will be something much worse.

Rice was a bit late with her advice not to be disappointed with the Kyiv regime. The Ukrainians felt disappointed shortly after Maidan. Inefficient governance, collapsing economy, all this has shuttered their trust in their new regime. Even social services are no longer able to draw nice figures. According to Rating, as many as 50% of the Ukrainians would like to see the Verkhovna Rada dissolved and mid-term elections held. Only 21% are satisfied with Petro Poroshenko, with Speaker of the Supreme Rada Volodymyr Groysman and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk having just 14% and 8%, respectively. As many as 70% of people in Ukraine want the Cabinet to resign.

Almost 90% of the Ukrainians are dissatisfied with what the authorities are doing. They see no achievements, like economic growth, stable UAH rate, social security, no corruption, no oligarchy, good health care and fair judiciary.

According to Gallup International, in 2015 living standard in Ukraine slumped to the lowest level in 15 years. Few people expect any improvement in future. The number of those satisfied with their lives has dropped from 27% to 17%. As many as 79% of the Ukrainians see no progress in economy against 62% in 2014. The number of those suffering has grown to 36%, the number of those thriving has fallen to 9%. In Ukraine disappointment level is much higher than in other post-Soviet republics.

Why should they be happy?

They are not just disappointed, they are annoyed.

In the meantime, those in power seem to have lost their sense of reality. Otherwise, they would not improve their lives in a situation requiring urgent decisions.

In Feb 2016, 173 Ukrainian MPs were given money for rent. In Dec 2015, there were 177 such MPs – so, progress is obvious. The official salaries of the President and the Prime Minister are growing. But this is not their only income. Everybody in Ukraine is aware of their unofficial revenues.

For ordinary people, salary and pension are the only source of income. According to the State Statistics Service, in Jan 2016 average monthly salary in Ukraine was 4,362 UAH ($170 or 157 EUR). The average pension was 1,573 UAH ($61 or 57 EUR). In the meantime, food prices in 2015 grew from to 43.3% from 24.9 in 2014 and 0.5% in 2013.

Yatsenyuk’s has no plans to raise salaries and pensions for his people and keeps urging them to be patient. He did the same during the Maidan times.

Very soon some people may remind him of his words. More and more people are enraged with their government’s inability to solve elementary economic problems. According to the UN, almost 80% of the Ukrainians are very poor. For two years already the country is falling into abyss. In a country where there are lots of arms and where semi-legal groups are terrorizing people, this is fraught with social outbursts.

P.S. More and more people compare Ukraine with African countries. Rice was not the first. Governor of Odessa Oblast, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was the first to compare the country with Gabon. And this sounds as compliment as today Gabon lives much better than Ukraine.

Andrey Chesnokov, specially for EADaily

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