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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 49,537 41,380 37,600 55
GNI per capita
 US $ 970 770 720 137
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Ukraine

Update No: 328 - (28/04/08)

In Betwixt and Between
Ukraine is the Bugbear of the Western world. The Bear is of course Russia. But bugging the Russians and the West is this recalcitrant bugbear, in betwixt and between them.

The original capital of Rus is Kiev. The eastern provinces are Russian-speaking and inclined towards Moscow and its ways. The western ones are Western-bound, in sympathy at least. They are in a substantial majority and staged the Orange Revolution in 2004 that brought about a transformation of the prospects of its own part of the world, central to Europe after all. 

Fledgling democracy
What's happening in Ukraine is natural for the stage of political development the country has found itself at. This stage is called electoral democracy. Having some traits of the power of the people, it still falls short of the accountability of mature democracy. 

The voters determine the composition of governmental bodies, but they cannot influence the way politicians behave during their terms in office. Politicians have learned to compete openly, even getting keen on campaigns with all their adrenalin and unpredictable outcome.

But they are not that good at the bureaucratic routine - be it work in the government or in the shadow cabinet.

The post-electoral debacle
Ukraine held an unsatisfactory election last year, with an inconclusive outcome. One can't hold another election again. President Yushchenko won't dissolve the parliament for a second time within a year. Taking into consideration the low approval rating of his "Our Ukraine" Bloc, he can easily find himself a general without his parliamentary army. The Party of Regions has been seized with in-fighting’s. Its leading activists take posts in the "anti-national" government without being accountable to the party, which is to be explained to the voters actually. 

Even the rally queen Tymoshenko has nothing to compete for. On the one hand, she can't reckon with anything more substantial than the post of the Prime Minister, on the other hand, voters can blame her for the inflation. Finally, one should keep in mind that the sponsors' purses are not bottomless. Within three years and a half they have been emptied three times, and the presidential campaign is just around the corner, due in 2009.

But elections are necessary to make new "friends". The thing is, the white-and-blue and the orange are reluctant to explain betrayal somehow, even when they call it "tactics."

So the challenging and senseless odd-man-out game keeps on, with all its squabbles, putting spokes in the government's wheel in the form of a ban on privatization and land auctions, a show "Stop NATO" with balloons and so on.

An opportunity missed
Kiev is now paying the bill for its dilatoriness in reforms. The Bucharest decision to deny NATO's membership action plan to Ukraine appears a message from the West implying that neither Brussels nor the leading European states are going to take up the reform rhetoric for real reforms. In this context it doesn't matter much whether the Kiev political mess was the reason or pretext for the refusal.

Kiev can pay even a higher price. Today the question is addressed whether Ukraine will quickly join Europe, or it will never catch up with its neighbours of Central Europe in terms of democratic institutions and economic development. The more time is lost, the higher the chance that experts will keep on convening in Kiev for conferences called "Ukraine between Russia and the EU."

At the same time, all leading political parties are unanimous in the denial of the possibility of this "in-between" status. No politician in Kiev doubts the necessity for Ukraine to get admission to the EU, which gives the country an opportunity to change for the better.

The feud continues
It was Churchill who said that there could be no real friendship between those in the highest reaches of the state. He also said that there is all the difference in the world between being number two or three or six or being number one. He knew that in WWII, in June 1940; with profound consequences, Halifax, the alternative PM, was planning to sue for peace. 

In Ukraine the president and the premier are bitter enemies, despite being on the same side on the Orange Revolution in autumn 2004. President Yushchenko cannot abide the constant carping of the querulous queen of Ukrainian politics, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko. 

On April 21 she accused Yushchenko of blocking by his decree, about 20 initiatives aimed at increasing transparency in the economy and necessary for the fight against corruption. According to her, the reason is that the president sees her as the key contender at the presidential election of 2009. "The president has now de-facto blocked these initiatives by his decree. It is very difficult to find an explanation to that," the prime minister said in an interview with the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 

"I think the reason is that the president is very intensively thinking about the presidential election of 2009, and sees me as his competitor. However, this competition must not stop transparency and reforms in my country," she said. 

According to her, "a ban on strategic privatisation destroys the investment climate in Ukraine". Focusing on price growth in the country, which made up 9.7 percent in the first three months of 2008, she accused the Central Bank of Ukraine of "importing inflation." "We are dealing with an inherited problem, and I believe that the measures we are taking will curb inflation," she said. "But we have a restricted number of instruments for that," Timoshenko added. "The government has no influence on the Central Bank. However, it is known that it very closely pegging our currency to the dollar," the prime minister continued. "Foreign experts say that thus inflation is imported," she stressed. 

Timoshenko also stated that she had never said anything that could undermine "a democratic coalition" in Ukraine. "For me, the unity of our democratic coalition is the most important thing. That is why, I have never said anything that could undermine our strategic union," the prime minister emphasized.

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