When Mykola Zhulynsky, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, traveled to Canada this past July, he shared his government’s vision of how Ukraine might celebrate its first decade of independence.
Its tenth anniversary on August 23, 2001, an uncommon event since it has been centuries since Ukraine has sustained ten years of independent rule, will be a big event. The Vice Premier mentioned several birthday projects: a pantheon to its freedom fighters stretching through the centuries, a monument to the victims of the Great Soviet Manmade Famine, and a celebration of diaspora talent. All these are wonderful initiatives.
Shortly after Ukraine gained independence I asked a political scientist what he would do to secure Ukraine’s new place in the world, were he in charge. Three things, he said: ensure independence, make international friends, and instill love for Ukraine among the people.
Ukraine has done well on the first point. And it counts many Western powers, including Canada among its friends. But that matter of love at the level of the man on the street in the bleak times Ukraine is experiencing just now would seem to need more work.
Fortunately Ukraine has Mr. Zhulynsky in the position of Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Humanitarian Affairs. Soft-spoken, sensitive, a writer and pre-independence defender of Ukraine’s freedom, he is the right man to generate love by people for the country. This is not an easy task when taxes are stifling, jobs are scarce, wages and salaries inadequate, economic stagnation unrelieved, exports insignificant, and population in decline. And, as if all that were not enough, there is the domination of the Russian language and messages in the predominantly foreign-owned broadcast and print media blocking national content and the growth of national identity all the while adding insult to injury by threatening Ukraine with human rights violations on the grounds of denying the Russian language.
Despite all this malaise, Ukraine is a diamond in the rough. And, fortunately, there are some bright spots on the horizon but much more is needed. Hence, for its tenth birthday party Academician Zhulynsky and his colleagues might wish to add some sparkle to the lives of the citizens and give them reason to love Ukraine.
I offer a Canadian’s birthday present list designed to generate love. A present for every year of independence:
1. 10% reduction of personal and business taxes
2. 10% increase in pensions
3. 10% increase in job creation
4. 10% increase in wages and salaries
5. 10% growth in GDP
6. 10% growth in production and consumption of indigenous goods
7. 10% growth in exports
8. 10% increase in Ukrainian content in the media
9. 10 % drop of immigration
To anyone that has been to Ukraine, the list will sounds like a list of the toasts that make for successful Ukrainian dinner parties, none of which could possibly end without a special incantation to the ladies. Thus I offer a tenth, a 10% subsidy to mothers to stimulate the birth rate.
How will all this fine love stuff be funded? That might be the birthday present from First Deputy Prime Minister of Economic Affairs Mr. Yekhanurov, and the present from Prime Minister Yushchenko and above all President Kuchma. Moreover, all the good international friends that Ukraine has might give fine presents from the heart as well, Canada among them.
After all, Canada is the best country in the world because it provides most of us with many of the items on the list. And we love it. But at one point, some 110 years ago when things were as bleak here as they are in Ukraine today, and Canada was a backwater, the Ukrainians came with their human capital and grain to help transform it into what it is today. Indeed, about one million are still contributing to its success.
One generous gift deserves another; and when better to present it than on a birthday? What do you say to about that, Canada? What do you have to say, Academician Zhulynsky? .