I'm leaving this weekend to staff the ASSOCIATED Baltimore Jewish Federation Partnership mission to
issues we’re going to look at from a macro perspective … Odessa,
There’s a shadow economy in
Ukraine, with huge underemployment.
2 million Ukrainians work abroad (about half each in Russia
and in Europe, mostly in Poland
Even so, there’s been some fairly good economic development notwithstanding
the hard punch of the 2008-9 world economic crisis. It’s worth pointing out
that Ukrainian banks didn’t collapse, large companies didn’t fail, there
weren’t any riots.
Most economists in
Ukraine point to the need for two
(1) Medical – the funding doesn’t enable them to do what they need, so people die early and suffer. Last year they set up four pilot regions –
is one of them – to implement proper medical care, insurance, to expand options
and care. Medical care in Ukraine
is very corrupt and poor. There’s no emphasis on the patient’s needs. Medicines
are expensive and there's a shortage. There are a small number of pharmacy-discount
programs like those of JDC, these are very impressive. But they need a lot
(2) Pensions – the pension age is going to be lifted from 55 to 60 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. It’s a good move. Many say that Ukrainians have gotten used to suffering. How can you survive on a pension of $100 a month? It’s much harder in the small towns and cities, interestingly. If you have a small garden outside you can manage a little easier if you can grow something.
Political scientists joke that the national sport in
The question will be – on everything – is which way is
– towards Russia
or towards the West? There are no real ideological parties like we’re used to
in the West; everything is based more on economic interests and
language/identity. But in poll after poll, language identity comes low – usually
10th or 11th – on the list of what's important for
people’s worries, after inflation, unemployment, cost of living, etc., when
they go into the voting booth.
What's clear is that
Ukraine could probably go on like
this for a lot more time. There’s inertia, there’s an amazing capacity to bear
suffering, with very slow progress.
But there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.
The joke is that electricity got so expensive that they decided to turn off the light at the end of the tunnel!