Political winners, losers of tax code debacle
To begin with, it was strange to see Prime Minister Mykola Azarov being put in charge of fixing Ukraine’s tax system.
After all, he headed Ukraine’s tax administration for many years and is considered the architect of the current notoriously corrupt and abused tax system.
It is equally fitting, therefore, that he receives much of the blame for this, the second botched tax reform effort this year.
It was hardly a surprise that Azarov, known for his bullheaded management style, did not take into consideration the interests of millions of citizens who make a living in small- and medium-sized businesses.
President Viktor Yanukovych has tried to deflect the blame to Azarov, telling the premier during their joint visit to protesters in Kyiv on Nov. 27 that small businesses’ concerns need to be taken into account.
But by putting the trusted bureaucrat in charge of government in the first place, Yanukovych deserves an equal, if not larger share of the blame.
Despite suspicion among protestors that any changes will only be cosmetic, Yanukovych managed to promote the message that he is taking the concerns of small entrepreneurs into account.
However, the tax code is linked with the president as the first of many major overhauls he has pledged.
This is not a promising start.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergiy Tigipko was one of the co-authors of the recently adopted tax code, and even said the government should adopt the tax code without consulting with taxpayers.
Recent local elections showed his support plummet to d 6 percent from 13 percent in the January presidential elections.
As the leading government member who is from the president’s Party of Regions, Tigipko could be a fall guy.
Mykhailo Brodsky, head of the State Committee on Entrepreneurship, is considered another potential scapegoat.
Leader of the opposition Fatherland party, Yulia Tymoshenko unsuccessfully tried to insert herself as the leader of the anti-tax code protests in a bid to repeat her success as a leader in rallying protesters during the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Although the tax code saga has hit her opponents hard, she was unable to pull the protesters representing small businesses completely onto her side.
Suspicious of all political camps, they have so far remained non-partisan.
At the moment she is neither a winner nor loser in this process, remaining an outsider in the tax code battle between the authorities and the small entrepreneurs.
One of the leading organizers of the protests of small and medium enterprise representatives, Oleksandr Danylyuk seemed to be on the verge of becoming a major political force.
But in the past week of protests, bitter rivalries erupted between Danylyuk and other protest leaders.
He has been accused of trying to hijack the protest for personal gain, a charge he denies.
Still, analysts say that with Ukrainians tired of mainstream political figures, a weak political opposition and increasingly authoritarian government, Danylyuk and other protest organizers have a strong chance to join the next generation of Ukrainian political leaders.
Ukraine’s small businesses, civic society
Weeks ago, it seemed like the government’s tax code would be adopted swiftly into law, hitting Ukraine’s small- and medium-sized businesses hard.
They would have seen their tax burden increased sharply, while taxes are cut for big businesses.
But they took to the streets in a flurry of grassroots protests that were disorganized, but big enough to make Yanukovych’s team blink over the issue. If their resolve remains strong, they could very well force the government to accept their demands.
Their success could inspire Ukrainians across the board to force leaders into delivering reforms that benefit the nation overall, not a select group of politicians and oligarchs. Such a scenario would equate to a huge boost for civic society in Ukraine.
Read also 'Yanukovych bows to protesters, crafts changes to tax code' by Yuriy Onyshkiv.
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