Ukrainian MPs cancel pay rise after shock asset declarations

2 Nov 16

Ukrainian MPs have passed on an opportunity to double their wages as an already hostile public still reels from the astonishing scale of wealth declared by public officials as part of a transparency exercise on Sunday.

 

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Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Independence Square in Kiev was one of the main sites in Ukraine's 2014 popular uprising, which called for an end to rampant corruption in the country.

 

The Ukrainian public were left stunned when a long-awaited online assets declaration system unveiled the vast riches of the country’s political class, which included churches, lavish jewellery and millions of dollars held in cash.

The online system was established as part of a wide-ranging anti-corruption drive and is a key condition for continued Western support.

As the public balked at the opulence of some 50,000 officials, ranging from those holding the highest offices in the country to judges and central bank employees, sheepish MPs decided to cancel a decision to give themselves a pay rise.

MPs yesterday reversed legislation, due to take effect that day, which would have seen their monthly salaries more than double, to over $1,300.

The revelations have triggered fresh concerns about the extent of corruption in a country that is supposedly working to clean up its act.

Reformist prime minister Volodymyr Groysman, who has vowed to crack down on graft, declared cash worth $1.2m and a collection of expensive watches and jewellery.

Under the system, officials were obliged to resister any assets worth more than $14,000 by an explicit deadline or face potential criminal charges. An anticipated 400,000 officials will have made declarations by April next year.

Some MPs and officials have insisted that their wealth is legitimate. But with some estimates putting total declarations at nearly half a billion dollars, the public and international onlookers remain sceptical.

Rampant corruption in Ukraine was a key driver of the widespread protests in the country in 2014, which saw then-president Victor Yanukovych ousted and protestors storm his lavish home.

His successor, pro-European Petro Poroshenko, vowed to build a cleaner, more open Ukraine with closer ties to the West. But reform efforts have frequently stalled – so much so that earlier this year the International Monetary Fund threatened to suspend payments from its $17.5bn bailout to Ukraine.

Anti-corruption reforms were a key condition of both IMF and European support, and the launch of the online asset declaration system was seen as a key milestone by both partners. It was an explicit requirement for the EU to implement a plan to enable visa-free travel for Ukrainians.

It has seen Poroshenko, also a billionaire businessman, declare another $26m in businesses and property. Others have also revealed extensive property holdings, antiques, a church, a wine collection comprising 760 bottles, jewellery and curiosities, such as a Nazi SS dagger.

The revelations have sparked anger among Ukraine’s largely impoverished population, whose lifestyles are dramatically different from those now on display online. Average monthly incomes in Ukraine are around $200.

Whether the country’s Anti-Corruption Bureau, established in 2014 as the leading enforcement agency on corruption, will now investigate any suspicious declarations is yet to be seen.

If no action is taken, critics argue the much-lauded e-declaration system would be largely useless.

But its creation did secure much needed financial assistance from the EU, World Bank and IMF. The 2014 uprising and subsequent cut in ties with Russia, annexation of Crimea and war in Ukraine’s eastern regions decimated the country’s economy.

After a 17% contraction in GDP over two years, the country emerged from recession in 2016 following the implementation of strict austerity measures. 

  • Emma Rumney

    Emma is a reporter at Cooking Recipes International. She also writes for in the UK.

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