‘I believe that we can pull Ukraine up by its bootstraps’ – Vitaliy Skotsyk, #Ukraine presidential candidate

| January 30, 2019

A successful businessman who hopes to break the mould of Ukraine politics in the country’s upcoming presidential elections has spelled out his domestic policy objectives. 

Vitaliy Skotsyk (pictured) was speaking to EU Reporter ahead of polling day on 31 March. He is one of more than 20 candidates running in the election. Others include the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko whose main opponent in the polls is opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has a following among Ukrainian nationalists.

However, Skotsyk, a relative newcomer to politics, is said to be fast gaining popularity and, in an exclusive interview with this website, the former CEO laid out some of the key messages of his campaign. Skotsyk, an economist who has breathed new life into the country’s Agrarian party over the last four years, said tackling corruption is a key policy, adding: “I never once paid any bribes in my business or political life and I want to prove it is possible to build a proper democracy. We can see two paths right here in our own region. In Romania we see that they are jailing everyone but that corruption is far from ended. In Poland we see another possible path where they have pursued the idea of ‘zero declaration’.

“Essentially, the message is that if you declare everything you have right now you will not be penalized retrospectively.  Going forward you must obey all the rules.” He added: “The solidarity tax system we currently have here is not right – everyone pays the same percentage of tax regardless of income but those with more wealth should pay a higher percentage. We need to ensure that those earning very little such as our medical doctors, can be allowed to live reasonable lives.

“Obviously if there is a clear criminal case someone should be prosecuted. But we want a zero declaration situation where you are not penalised but live an honest life and pay taxes.” He said people keep in cash a  “huge” amount of money “under their mattresses” and outside Ukraine but “if people would bring that to our economy, we would not have to go to the IMF for money.”

Changing the Ukrainian political system, he went on to say, is another objective, noting: “We want to change the system of state management in Ukraine and want a new version of the Ukrainian constitution.  A new system is needed where the President and Prime Minister do not fight each other for power.”

The presidency should be based on the “German model,” with “a face on the international stage”. But the president would not run the economy and the Ukrainian parliament would be much smaller than the current 450 MP strong assembly, and would have two chambers – a senate (upper chamber) of 75 people and a lower chamber with 125 people. The upper chamber, under his plans, would be made up of four committees: international relations, economy, local government and science. Some members of the upper chamber (like science) would be appointed. The prime minister would be the leader of the party with most votes, running a coalition government if necessary.

“The structure in the Agrarian party involves two chambers and demonstrates quite well how such a system would operate.” Changes to the political system could come about either with a national referendum or a vote in parliament but Skotsyk insists: “We need these changes to put our state in order.”

Currently, Ukraine “inevitably sets itself up for president dictators” which can lead to “big problems” as with former president Viktor Yanukovych. “We want real democracy, including local democracy,” he declared.

Skotsyk, who credits Canadian, Swiss and Ukrainian economist Bohdan Havrylyshyn for his inspiration, also wants a big shake up of local government, adding: “We saw a decentralization of Ukraine three years ago but it is not working properly.

“We need to have a census organized as we have not had one since 2001. We need to double check each village, town, city, who is living there and what administrative units do we need? We need to change how we tax locally.  Right now, local authorities get 25% of their budget locally and the remaining 75% comes from central government but this adds to corruption. We should have 70% of tax stay local and 30% paid to central government.”

Skotsyk, who was born in the west of Ukraine and worked for several years in the UK, sets out his “vision” for Ukraine’s future, saying: “There are three elements to consider: 25% of the population has to be ready to build their own state; they must decide upon what kind of economy they want and then aim for a structured political system·”

Describing the Agrarian party as conservative and centre right, he told this website: “We need parties with a solid track record to keep state development on track.

“I have travelled eight times around Ukraine and am now on my ninth tour meeting people and covering the country.  When I speak with my voters, I say that no one will come to build a state for us.”

In the 2015 elections the Agrarian party was number five out of 132 parties and its national rating was 6.92%.   But over seven waves of local elections in Ukraine it has risen to become number three. The success in rebuilding the party can, he believes, be a model for Ukraine itself, adding: “We attracted the best of society from all sectors, including health, science, education and we have identified a model for the economy.

“We have shown that Ukraine is ready to build a state and I truly believe we can pull Ukraine up by the bootstraps,” he concluded.


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