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Ukraine's privatisation Bill 'a knife in the heart' of society, say communists

Petro Symonenko denounces parliamentary bid to ease sale of 3,500 public enterprises

THE Privatisation of State Property Bill going through Ukraine’s parliament is a “knife in the heart” of social welfare, the country’s Communist Party leader said yesterday.

General secretary Petro Symonenko denounced the legislation, which passed its first reading earlier this month, as “plundering the people’s property.”

Backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Bill paves the way for the sell-off of around 3,500 state-owned enterprises, providing for the sale of public assets at knock-down prices by reducing the asking price by 25 and then 50 per cent if foreign speculators object to the initial valuation and by even more “in consultation with potential investors” if that too fails to please.

The fire sale is part of agreements reached with the IMF in return for a bailout that began in 2015 and is required for Kiev to get its hands on the next wodge. Ukraine’s economy was hit hard following the fascist-backed Maidan coup of February 2014, shrinking by 6.8 per cent in 2014 and by 12 per cent the next year.

Legal changes will also allow Ukrainian firms to be bought and sold in other jurisdictions without reference to the country’s own authorities.

“The basic industries, energy and transport, should fill the state treasury and the lion’s share should guarantee constitutional rights to education, science, culture, pensions, medicine and public safety,” Mr Symonenko objected.

Kiev claims that many of the enterprises are loss-making drains on the state’s coffers and that privatisation is part of economic liberalisation which will eventually lead to growth.

But Mr Symonenko said lots of previously profitable firms have been mismanaged by a racketeering elite.

“It turns out that, if of 3,460 state enterprises 608 are completely unprofitable, it is not the regime and its agents who are to blame, but the ‘insufficient pace of privatisation’,” he noted sarcastically.

Ministers had cited the Odessa Port Plant enterprise, whose fertiliser products were in demand before Maidan but which had lost out following unequal trade deals signed with the EU.

“Did the association with the EU open the markets of Europe [for our products]?” he asked. “No.”

Mr Symonenko called for a return to socialism, when “all enterprises worked for the benefit of the people and not for the pockets of home-grown hucksters and their long-distance puppeteers.”

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