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You're reading: No more free rides
The list of obstructed reforms remains long as Ukraine’s politicians go on a long and undeserved summer break. Ukraine has not reformed its police. The report takers driving around in shiny new donated cars and wearing spiffy uniforms, otherwise known as the patrol police, don’t count as much more than cosmetic reform. As for real police investigators, the Interior Ministry and Security Service of Ukraine — with collectively 250,000 people in their ranks — appear to be as corrupt, unaccountable and ineffective as always. The General Prosecutor’s Office is unreformable, with Yuriy Lutsenko, an unqualified political hack at its head, the successor to a long line of corrupt and politically subservient predecessors. And the courts are still a corrupt mess, unable to deliver justice. Additionally, lawmakers still have legal immunity from criminal prosecution. Their immunity can be lifted if most of their colleagues approve, which they voted to do this week to four MPs among their ranks. But, as history shows, they will either flee the country with their money or reach a deal not to face any criminal trial. Before adjourning for summer recess, parliament took no action to privatize the 1,800 or 3,500 state-owned enterprises (no one knows for sure) that continue to enrich private interests at public expense. Ukraine’s leaders did not create a private agricultural land market, which would unlock potentially $50 billion in new investments to Ukraine. They did not restore fiscal solvency to state pensions, which continue to cost 12 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Ukraine’s politicians also did not create an anti-corruption court, dashing hopes that criminal cases will be brought to a fair public trial ending in a verdict trusted by the public. Worse, European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker caved in to President Petro Poroshenko and softened Western demands for an independent anti-corruption court. Billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky’s PrivatBank, before being nationalized, stole billions of depositors’ dollars through insider lending. He was just the leader of the pack in an industry that looted $20 billion from Ukrainians. And no banker has been punished for this robbery. Don’t even get us started on all the unsolved crimes of the fallen President Viktor Yanukovych’s administration from 2010–2014, when $40 billion was robbed from Ukraine, or the three previous presidential administrations. Yet, the glass “half-fullers,” the collection of myopic optimists who don’t want reality to intrude on their fantasy worlds, point to creation of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (understaffed, not fully independent, under constant attack) and the National Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (discredited) and the Special Anti-Prosecutor’s Office (understaffed and again, without independent courts, meaningless.) Nobody wants or would benefit more from a prosperous Ukraine than the Kyiv Post, which would see its fortunes rise as one of the few commercially and editorially independent news outlets. We believe Ukraine can be a rich country, but it doesn’t happen automatically. No matter how much everyone talks up Ukraine’s potential and progress, what matters most is what investors do -- and they are largely saying no for all the usual reasons: war, lack of rule of law, corruption, no property rights, limits on repatriating profits abroad, etc. The latest episode in which low-cost Ryanair cancelled plans this week to enter Ukraine underscored the oligarchic hold on the economy and the government’s woeful strategic communications shortcomings. It is heartening that U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and EU officials acknowledged the corruption issue on their visits to Kyiv in the past week. If the West really wants to help, it will have to set tougher conditions and stricter timelines on the financial assistance, not capitulate as Juncker did. Ukraine’s leaders have shown no will to reform and have lapsed into foot-dragging and obstructionist mode. As member of parliament Sergii Leshchenko rightly points out, 90 percent of the reforms achieved to date were part of international assistance conditions. Those are today’s realities in Ukraine. The people have spoken clearly — they want to live in a prosperous European democracy, not an aid-dependent ex-Soviet backwater. Only self-serving political and business leaders are standing in the way. Their free ride has to come to an end.

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