As the first anniversary of the Orange Revolution approaches, all of us, standing a year ago in different squares of Ukrainian towns and villages, are overwhelmed with questions. How much has the country changed this year? What will happen to it in the future? How has government changed? Are we committed to Maidan ideals?
I think the greatest accomplishment of the year 2005 is freedom. Government has also changed, having eventually realized that the people, those voters that convincingly proved last year they could elect their leaders, were the only source of power.
For the first time the Ukrainians have the government that clearly understands that it must hear its citizens and account for each measure it takes. I find this dialogue with you vital.
I want you to understand and support what we do and all reforms we start. I would like to dedicate my radio address to these issues.
Every day, my office receives more than eight hundred letters. Problems you write about should be meticulously analyzed to understand how the country and its citizens live and what questions disturb them most.
You should learn about all government initiatives at first hand. This is why I will be speaking today on these worrying subjects. I will dwell on the essence of all changes the government attempts to introduce. We should jointly choose and see the way we go.
One year ago, we defined our major priorities: worthy conditions of life, stability, development, and Ukraine’s international authority.
This year we took important steps towards improving the social welfare and protecting property rights. We raised salaries and pensions. We plan to increase our minimum wage to 400 UAH by the end of 2006. This year’s budget has benefited the poor. However, next year’s budget should be a development budget, not a consumption budget, to develop economy. Government should create conditions for business to develop, using both domestic and international opportunities.
This is why my government and I, as Head of State, regard the World Trade Organization to be one of Ukraine’s strategic goals.
Until recently we had not spoken of the importance of WTO accession. This subject – I know that from your letters – is extremely politicized. Some politicians still intimidate the people with myths about unpleasant surprises for the national producer.
I assure you that the WTO is a chance to be recognized in world markets and become a powerful country that can improve the social welfare. It is also an intention to be competitive.
The World Trade Organization currently has 148 members. Almost all products are sold and bought within the WTO framework. Very few countries of the world are not members of this organization.
The WTO offers clear rules the civilized world follows. They demand efficiency, competitiveness and speed from us. If we do not play by the rules, others will play against us, obeying no rules.
Every year we lose billions of dollars because of anti-dumping cases in different countries of the world. Experts alarmingly claim that we annually lose eight billion dollars!
When we join the WTO, Ukraine’s trade profits will grow by ten times. All Ukrainian producers will have access to world markets.
They will not have to worry that their produce might be arrested, humiliatingly checked and unfairly taxed. These are huge opportunities for our business to find partners in other countries.
After joining the WTO our GDP will annually increase by 1.9%. This figure means additional jobs, higher salaries and pensions.
Ukrainian textiles, metals, machines and crops are sold in the west and in the east. However, the problem is not to produce competitive goods, but to sell them. The greatest challenge is to find new partners, fighting for new markets every day. Owing to our WTO entry we will not only preserve existing jobs but will also create thousands of new jobs and considerably expand our presence in world markets. In addition to that, Ukraine’s membership in the world’s elite club is an important signal for investors.
National and foreign investment is probably the only way to create new jobs and raise salaries without any risk of inflation.
The Kryvorizhstal fair auction has been a success of the new government to restore investors’ trust in Ukraine. My team showed that we were implementing the election program. A year ago I promised you to nationalize Kryvorizhstal to re-privatize it at a transparent auction for record price. We have recently formed a working group that is formulating a plan to optimally use these privatization funds. Billions of hryvnyas should be spent on development projects. Among our priorities are the energy-supply sector, farming, construction of new bridges and metro, municipal projects and high-technologies. Each kopeck earned at the mill auction should be used to develop our economy.
This successful privatization is inspiring. Investors’ interest shows that Ukraine’s business is becoming trustworthy. We are regarded as a steady and reliable partner. Nobody expects us to make unpredictable statements and turn abruptly.
Our WTO integration will only make this trust stronger. Joining the club, which unites the world’s most powerful economies, will make foreign investment grow by at least 500 million dollars each year.
All our neighbors are either WTO members or moving towards the WTO at full speed. Our national dignity tells us: if Ukraine is ready to join the organization, it must do it without any hesitation.
I know there are some worries in society that the national producer might be affected when Ukraine opens its markets as a WTO member. Defending our national interests and protecting the national producer is the biggest priority for the government, and our talks with WTO members are based on this principle.
WTO membership does not mean we will suddenly become unprotected and uncompetitive.
Ukrainian aircrafts, linen and other products are known as global brands. The whole world accepts them. But they are still tagged as goods that are manufactured out of the WTO zone. It is time we take off these embarrassing tags.
I want each of us to understand one simple thing. Those who claim that Ukraine is uncompetitive and unprepared for the WTO distrust our country’s potential, our potential. I am convinced that we can overcome all obstacles our neighbors can overcome. I believe in our strength.
What are Ukraine’s chances to join the WTO by the end of this year? In the past few months the cabinet and Verkhovna Rada have activated their work in this direction. The new government developed an efficient model of cooperation with parliament. Their ability to see common goals and tasks, conduct a civilized dialogue and compromise immediately yields positive results. This week, Rada has approved two WTO bills. I want parliamentarians to pass eight more bills. This is their responsibility.
If we had put on speed in the beginning of this year, Ukraine would now benefit from its membership.
We optimistically believe we will join the WTO this year. However, we must frankly say that lots of things depend on our partners and bureaucratic obstacles. Time works against us, for we need months to observe all technical procedures to join the WTO.
We are on the home straight and have a chance to complete this race on time to persuade our partners to reach a positive decision. What is really important is to spare no effort to achieve the goal.
We shall overcome some day and become a powerful player in world markets. We are strong enough to earn respect in honest competition. I believe in our success, which will bring prosperity to all of us."
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